Saturday, October 31, 2009

Namibia: Women Demand Action For Votes

From AllAfrica:
NAMIBIAN women from all walks of life have made it clear that political parties will have to earn their votes, and will be held accountable for the promises they make.

This message was communicated to political parties yesterday during a dialogue with women as part of the Women Claiming Citizenship Campaign, where a "women's advocacy brochure" outlining the demands of Namibian women was also launched.

The demands listed in the brochure include "freedom from violence and discrimination, freedom from harmful cultural practices and beliefs, freedom from hunger and poverty, access to resources and services, freedom from preventable diseases and access to quality healthcare for all, freedom from HIV and AIDS, and access to quality education and training."

Giving the keynote address at the event, Anna Beukes, Executive Director of the Namibia NGO Forum (NANGOF), pointed out that women make up 52 per cent of the country's population, and that their voices therefore needed to fully acknowledged.

She said that as women prepared to take to the polls for the fourth national elections since Independence, they wouldn't be voting simply for the sake of voting, but being conscious of their rights and the policies and legislation to which Namibia is party, they would hold politicians accountable for their work.

The parties present at the forum included the All People's Party (APP), the Congress of Democrats (CoD), the National Democratic Party (NDP), the Namibia Democratic Movement of Change (NDMC), Nudo, the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), Swanu and the UDF.

Representatives of the eight parties present each stated their party's stance on some of the issues affecting women, and responded to a number of questions.

Liberia: Tackling Violance Against Women

From Radio Nederland Wereldomroep:
The Liberian Minister for Gender and Development, Vabah Gayflor, visited a safe house for abused women in The Netherlands earlier this week. She wanted to learn how Dutch authorities deal with domestic violence. In Africa, Liberia is ahead in the fight against domestic violence. However, after many years of civil war, the issue continues to be a problem.

Liberia also has shelters for women who get frequently beaten by their partners, said Vabah Gayflor. But they are less well equipped and the staff is less professional compared to those in the Netherlands. The principle is the same: women enjoy special protection, they recover from their difficulties and get support in finding a solution to their problems.

Liberia experienced a bloody civil war for 14 years which ended in 2003. During the war, violence against women bacame an epidemic. Violence against women is less but has not disappeared.

The level of violence remains high. Many teenagers continue to be violated, as in any country emerging from war. The perpetrators tend to be former soldiers and rebels and some of them now occupy important positions.

The big difference between Liberia and the Netherlands represents the type of violence against women. In the Netherlands, it is mostly domestic violence, while in Liberia the sexual violence against women is a major problem. Especially on the street and at work. Furthermore rape is the crime most frequently reported in Monrovia, the counrty's capital.

But Liberia is also the first African country to be headed by a democratically elected woman. The Liberian Minister for Gender and Development is clearly proud that during the presidential election the votes of women made the difference.

Hamdard Center for Health and Human Services

From Medill Reports, Chicago:
Hamdard has become an indispensable force in the American Muslim community, attracting women across the country. Such culturally tailored shelters are rare nationwide, and with just 11 beds, the Hamdard Center turned away 859 women and children this past year.

Activists are using the occasion of Domestic Violence Awareness month to highlight the need for improved advocacy among abused Muslim females. The community, however, is beset by unique cultural challenges.

Though domestic violence occurs among American Muslims at the same rate as other groups, it has become an increasingly sensitive topic for Muslims. To some, in a post 9/11 world, speaking out means feeding the stereotypes demonizing Islam.

One vocal cleric is Imam Muhammad Magid, vice president of the Islamic Society of North America. He advocates discussion of domestic abuse during marriage counseling sessions at mosques.

“Violence against women is real and cannot be ignored,” said Magid, who leads seven mosques in Virginia. "In no way does Allah sanction these acts."

Botswana: Equality & Empowerment Tokenism

Editorial from the Botswana Gazette:
Party leaders have a tendency of using women empowerment to push their own political agendas and their own mileage and women tend to be beguiled by these tactics which I strongly castigate. BDP prior to the Kanye congress had misunderstandings, and the President used women to fight his own battles, he was preaching women empowerment like a born-again Christian. If what he advocated was women empowerment he should have done it or said it plainly when he assumed power.

Tokenism means women are assisted to assume positions not because they are capable whatsoever, but because the appointers think women are weak and cannot beat men in terms of merit hence they need to be assisted. Appointment based on tokenism is not an indication of that woman’s true value and this is demeaning. Women should earn these positions even though we know our customs had long sidelined them from assuming decision making positions in society.

Turkey: Need to Recognise Women

Editorial from Hurriyet Daily News:
We are Turkey’s most feminine newspaper. A majority of the newspaper’s managers are women, a majority of Daily News reporters are women, and our publisher is a woman.

This is why yesterday we led the paper again with another story on the failure of Turkish society to fully embrace and integrate the potential and creativity of its women citizens. This latest report, the “Global Gender Gap Index,” prepared by the World Economic Forum, placed Turkey where we would have expected. Of 134 countries, Turkey was ranked 129.

We might quarrel with some of the assumptions in the methodology. If one were to set up a survey of lawyers, senior business executives, doctors and architects, Turkey might well come out ahead of several Scandinavian countries. But in the aggregate, we would still be scraping the bottom of the statistical cellar.For that we are outraged.
A particular focus on this survey was participation in political life. Only 10 percent of Turkey’s lawmakers and senior officials are female. That today is the 86th anniversary of the Republic, a state that gave women the right to vote before most in European states, only makes today’s reality bitter. We acknowledge as MP Özlem Türköne pointed out in yesterday’s article that the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has done more than its predecessors. Thank you. But it is still not enough.
The exclusion of women from political life and other sectors is not only unjust but a waste of intellectual capital. To date, no political party has taken this issue seriously. The Association for Educating and Supporting Women Candidates, or Ka-Der, has been ignored by the major parties and even sued by one. In our own discussions, many of us have been wary of the suggestion that the only solution is quotas or “positive discrimination.”

View from a Grain of Sand

From Echo News:
SAWA Lismore (a branch of SAWA Australia, which is a support group for the women of Afghanistan) will screen View from a Grain of Sand, a film by Afghan journalist Meena Nanji, on Thursday, November 12, at the Birth and Beyond Centre in Nimbin.

The film gives a 50-year account of the Afghanistan saga since before the Russian invasion and how events have led to the present awful situation. It's an inside account on the effects of wars and tribal conflicts on the Afghan people, the way women are brutally treated, and how the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) has come to exist as the only viable movement for change. The women of RAWA continue to educate the Afghan people and provide medical facilities in the face of tribal fundamentalism, corrupt governments, foreign corporate and politically vested interests, and misleading media representations of the war.

Entry to this insightful doco is free. (But any donation is welcome.) A 2010 SAWA calendar will be on sale and new SAWA Lismore membership is welcomed.

UAE: Empowering Women

From Gulf News:
Her Highness Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, Supreme Chairperson of the Family Development Foundation and Chairwoman of the General Women's Union, said the achievements by UAE women have made them an important part of the development process.

These achievements and gains reflect a bright future and promise more in the coming years, Shaikha Fatima said in an interview with Al Mar'a Al Youm (woman today) magazine, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

She said the development of women in the UAE started when the late Shaikh Zayed became the Ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966.

"Emirati women have four ministerial positions now, which is among the highest rates in the Arab world. They also have 9 out of 40 parliamentary seats, which is one of the highest women's representation rates in the world," she said.

"In 2008, the first batch of Emirati judges and public prosecutors was appointed, as well as the first two female ambassadors. "We have over 12,000 businesswomen running 11,000 investment projects worth over Dh12.5 billion," she said, adding that the UAE laws consider women equal to men in all walks of life.

"Women have the rights of work, social security, ownership and business management. They also enjoy education, health and social care, equal salaries to men, as well as maternity leave, which is guaranteed by the civil service law," she said.

Olubanke King-Akerele

From Forbes:
Foreign Minister Olubanke King-Akerele believes that women in Africa have something special to bring to the table: peace and prosperity.

Minister King-Akerele was born in 1946 with a commitment to Liberian politics and higher learning in her blood. Her grandfather was Charles D. B. King, Liberia's 16th president, who started the renowned Booker T. Washington Institute, a Liberian college modeled on the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. She holds degrees from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and Brandeis and Columbia universities in the U.S.

With previous stints at the United Nations, where she was deputy director for the United Nations Development Program for Women, and as Minister of Commerce and Industry in Liberia, King-Akerele is part of a growing stable of female political leaders in Africa, from South Africa to Rwanda.

She is tasked with both helping to formulate and implement Liberia's foreign policy, no small challenge for a country that has been ripped apart by 14 years of civil war.

King-Akerele believes that international investment, if not the sole solution, plays a tremendous role in Liberia's success. She is taking her cause on the road internationally, speaking to a wide variety of public and private sector leaders about opening up trade with Liberia.

Angola: Women & Literacy

From AllAfrica:
Angolan minister of Family and Women Promotion Genoveva Lino Monday in coastal Kwanza Sul province, called on women to attend literacy classes, in order to learn about the reality of the country and world.

"You must participate in literacy classes and then continue studying because reading and writing enable to understand things."

Japan: Comfort Women Bill

From the Japan Times:
The new administration must ensure the Diet passes a bill recognizing the women forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military during the war if it is to form the East Asian Community proposed by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, nine ruling party lawmakers said Wednesday.

"If we don't solve this problem, it would be impossible for Japan to speak out to East Asia on an equal standing," Megumu Tsuji of the Democratic Party of Japan said at a meeting attended by a former "comfort woman."

Since the early 1990s, some former sex slaves, known euphemistically in Japan as comfort women, have filed lawsuits demanding an apology and direct compensation from the government.

India: Law Detering Honour Killings

From the Times of India:
Following a spate of reports on honour killings, women and child development minister Krishna Tirath on Wednesday said the government may consider a law to prevent such killings.

"We may consider a law if there is need," Tirath said. The minister also announced a slew of programmes that would dominate her agenda in the coming days. The ministry is launching a conditional cash transfer scheme for pregnant women and will also operationalise the ambitious National Mission for Empowerment of Women.

Stressing the need of nutritional support for women and children, Tirath said the ministry was in the process of launching new schemes like Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Conditional Maternity benefit Scheme for women.

The schemes are named `Sabla' and `Indira Gandhi Matratava Sehyog Yojana' respectively. Sabla is aimed at empowering adolescent girls along with improvement in nutritional and health status and upgrading various skills like home skills, life skills and vocational skills.

The `Conditional Maternity Benefit Scheme' is to support pregnant women belonging to the poor and economically weaker sections of society. It entails providing Rs 4,000 as wage loss to every woman after she gives birth to a child. The ministry plans to launch the scheme on November 19 to mark the birth anniversary of former PM Indira Gandhi.

West Aceh: No Trousers For Women

From the Jakarta Post:
Women wearing jeans and other trousers in West Aceh will now face sharia police, as will clothes vendors selling slacks for women.

West Aceh Regent Ramli M.S. issued the controversial regulation on Tuesday.

Those found wearing tight trousers, such as jeans, will have them cut by sharia police, and will be forced to wear loose-fitting attire.

"We have issued the regulation to further enforce Islamic sharia granted by the central government," Ramli told The Jakarta Post by phone on Tuesday.

To anticipate the huge number of slacks to be cut by police during raids, the West Aceh regency administration has prepared around 7,000 long skirts, which will be provided for free to those caught wearing trousers.

According to Ramli, the new regulation will be effective as of Jan. 1, 2010.

The regulation also prohibits clothes vendors in the regency from selling slacks or jeans to women.

Kuwait: No Head Covering For Women

From Reuters:
Kuwait's top court has decided that two women lawmakers are not required to wear an Islamic head cover, the official KUNA news agency reported on Wednesday.

An Islamist voter had sought to force parliament members Aseel al-Awadhi and Rola Dashti to cover the heads, citing the Islamic holy book the Koran. Several male MPs had also protested.

"This is not just a victory for myself and my colleague Rola, but a victory for the constitution. Wearing the veil or not does not have an effect on our performance and dedication to serving citizens who elected us," Awadhi told Reuters.

Women in the Gulf Arab state are not obliged by law to wear head covers although many do. The case was based on an article in election laws that say women candidates and voters should abide by Islam in general terms.

Women in Kuwait, the only Gulf Arab state with a parliament that has full legislative powers, won the right to vote and run in public elections in 2005 but women entered parliament through ballots only this year.

Korea: Closing Gender Gap

From Chosun Ilbo:
Many countries are making great strides toward gender equality, but women still lag behind men in political and economic empowerment. This was revealed in Global Gender Gap Index 2009 released on Tuesday by the World Economic Forum of Switzerland.

The index was based on a survey of 134 nations in four categories -- economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment, and health and survival. "The Index's scores can be interpreted as the percentage of the gap that has been closed between women and men," the report said.

Nordic countries had the smallest equality gaps. On a scale of 100, Iceland topped the list with 82.8 points, followed by Finland (82.5 points), Norway (82.3) and Sweden (81.4). Women there find it easy to work outside their home and find a balance between home and work as they benefit from traditionally generous welfare, the report said.

At the bottom, Qatar ranked 125th, followed by other Islamic countries such as Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Yemen came last with 46.1 points.

Korea ranked 115th, very close to the bottom. The country slid since its already low ranking of 92nd in 2006 when this survey was started, dropping to 97th in 2007 and 108th in 2008.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bosnia: Iron Lady Freed

From CNN:
Former Bosnian Serb leader Biljana Plavsic was released from prison in Sweden Tuesday, after serving two thirds of an 11-year sentence for crimes against humanity.

Plavsic, 79, who was once dubbed the "Iron Lady" of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, left the country after her release, Sweden's prison service said.

Plavsic's early release last week prompted angry protests in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which spent nearly four years besieged by Bosnian Serb forces.

Plavsic succeeded Karadzic as the Bosnian Serb leader when he was removed from power in 1995. Both were charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in 2001, along with former Bosnian Serb parliamentary speaker Momcilo Krajisnik.

The United Nations War Crimes Tribunal sentenced her to 11 years in prison, saying in its February 2003 decision that Plavsic had participated in "a crime of the utmost gravity" and "no sentence can fully reflect the horror of what occurred or the terrible impact on thousands of victims."

Under Swedish law, she was eligible for release after serving two-thirds of her sentence.

The Amazon

From BBC News:
A rare Jacobean manuscript of a play about women's liberation, which was found in a trunk at a castle, is expected to fetch £90,000 at auction.

The unknown play by Lord Edward Herbert was found during a valuation by auctioneers Bonhams at Powis Castle in Welshpool, Powys.

It is believed the play was to have been performed before James I and his court in 1618, but it was cancelled.

The manuscript of the play, called The Amazon, includes crossings out.

Bonhams said the play was about women's liberation, and "how well women would do without men" and "how useful divorce is".

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tonga: Hunger Strike To Oust PM

From Radio Australia:
A Tongan women's rights activist says she is prepared to continue a fast until the country's prime minister and deputy prime minister step down. Mele Amanaki, who heads the Tongan Women's National Congress, has been fasting for two weeks to protest what she says is injustice carried out by the government of prime minister Dr Fred Sevele. These include the 2006 riot which destroyed much of the capital, Nukualofa, the Princess Ashika ferry disaster and the refusal of the government to ratify a United Nations convention which prohibits discrimination against women.

West Bank: Women Weavers

From AFP:
In recent years Palestinian women in the Israeli-occupied West Bank have embraced traditional embroidery as a way to support their families while their husbands and male relatives have found it increasingly hard to find work.

A hand-embroidered dress will fetch between 1,200 and 1,500 dollars on the international market, and the women are typically paid around 300 dollars for the work, which is usually done over a period of one to two months, according to figures from a cooperative in the town of Al-Bireh near Ramallah.

The cooperative, which includes some 2,500 women, preaches self-sufficiency, with a prominent sign on the wall reading: "Woe to those who wear what they don't sew and eat what they don't grow."

The women cater largely to Palestinians in the diaspora, who seek out clothes and household items bearing the distinct embroidery of their homeland.

Dr Patricia Hamilton

From Yorke Peninsula Country Times:
Dr Patricia Hamilton from Port Victoria is one of 100 outstanding women selected for inclusion on the 2009 South Australian Women’s Honour Roll.

Image The Honour Roll acknowledges and celebrates passionate and committed women who have made a positive contribution to the community.

Patricia is an advocate and mentor for rural women across the country and currently is President of National Australian Women in Agriculture (AWiA)—a non-government, not-for profit, incorporated organisation founded in 1993 to raise and unite the profile of rural women who contribute and participate constructively to the sustainability of agriculture.

Patricia is also a mentor for the Office for Youth Ignite Program.

She is the only Yorke Peninsula representative ever to be placed on the SA Honour Roll (which began in 2008) and in 2009 was one of only 13 rural women to receive such recognition.

Sudan: Jonglei Women Defect

From Bor Globe Network:
Six months to national general elections in Sudan scheduled for February next year, five former female cadres in the National Congress Party, Jonglei state, have defected with their supporters from the National Congress Party to join the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.

Among the incoming members included Dr. Monica Simon Ngong, Susan Akuach, Grace Aluong, Martha Akuol, Ayak Philip among others, who held various responsiblilities in the tune of National Congress Party. However, one of the six is from United Sudan African Party (USAP)..

The women cited lack of equality in the national congress, both in form of gender and race.

Fate of Somali Women

From AsiaOne News:
Hyenas, rape, kidnappings - there is no shortage of dangers for women in the grim refugee camps of northern Somalia.

But it is still better than the horrors they fled: civil war battles in Mogadishu, drought in neighbouring Ethiopia, inter-clan warfare and what they say was state-sponsored ethnic persecution and killings.

Many have "lost" their husbands. Some men abandoned their families, others tried to cross the Gulf of Aden into Yemen and have given no sign of life since. Some are still part of the family but are away eking out a living herding livestock.

The wastelands on the edge of Galkayo, a large swathe of low thorn scrub where millions of plastic bags flutter in the breeze, are home to several camps.

Without men the women are constantly at risk of attack. They have to pay for guards at night.

Gaza: Clampdown on Women's Freedom

From Workers Liberty:
In July 2009, Hamas officials initiated what they called a "virtue" campaign, saying they were concerned about increasing "immoral" behaviour in Gaza. The main victims have been women.

In July a judge ordered that female lawyers had to wear the jilbab (a full-length robe) and the hijab (headscarves) in court. Nearly all the 150 women lawyers in Gaza wear the headscarf already, but they challenged the ruling as illegal and won. One, Dina Abu Dagga, said, “It was not the Chief Justice’s right to change the dress code. It was absolutely illegal… We are not against the hijab. I wear it myself. We are against imposing it… Today you impose the hijab, but tomorrow it will be something else.”

As the new school year began, in late August, pressure was placed on parents to dress their daughters more conservatively. Some female students have been refused entry to schools. Girls are being told they must wear a jilbab and a headscarf. Previously, the uniform typically required for female public school students was a long denim skirt and shirt.

Zeinab Ghonaimy of the Center for Women’s Legal Research and Consulting in Gaza reports that a school administrator slapped one female student in front of her schoolmates for not wearing the jilbab: "Physically assaulting students and humiliating them in front of their peers is simply unacceptable, whatever the reason, and especially to force them to wear certain religious clothing in violation of their religious freedom."

In mid-October the police began enforcing a new law which prevents women riding motorcyles. The ban, which was posted on a Hamas website claims they seek to “preserve citizen safety and the stability of Palestinian society’s customs and traditions.”

Hamas have banned mannequins and the display of women’s underwear in shop windows.

Hamas police patrols now demand women dress ‘modestly’ on the beach and that women are accompanied by fathers or brothers. Some of those that have broken these rules have been beaten-up by the police. One resident told Human Rights Watch that, on the night of 9 July, Hamas police beat up three young men for swimming without shirts.

It is increasingly rare to see women in the street who are not wearing headscarves – something now “mainly confined to the wealthier areas of Gaza City” (Guardian, 19 October). Those that do venture out without coving their hair can expect to be taunted.

In mid-October the Independent Commission for Citizens Rights’ office in Gaza City was raised by Hamas police and forced to close. Local human rights activists claim Hamas want to stop independent reporting of the current wave of repression.

Female Mob Bailed

From Eyewitness News:
Thirty-eight women accused of killing an alleged rapist were granted free bail by an Eastern Cape Magistrate on Monday.

The suspects appeared at Engcobo Magistrate Court on a charge of murder.

They allegedly assaulted a 27-year-old man on Friday. He subsequently died of his injuries.

The man was granted bail by the same court on a rape charge before the alleged assault.

The police’s Mzukisi Fatyela said the case against the women was postponed to November.

“All of them were granted free bail and the case has been remanded to the 17th of November," said Fatyela.

North Korea: Clampdown on Women

From AFP:
North Korea's regime has targeted women in a crackdown on private markets, depriving families of a vital source of food and income at a time of growing food shortages, a UN human rights rapporteur said Monday.

Vitit Muntarbhorn, who last week denounced human rights conditions in North Korea as "abysmal" in a scathing report to the UN General Assembly, said the plight of women "has gotten worse and worse during these years."

He said women under the age of 49 have been prohibited from engaging in trading, and the regime has gone so far as to ban them from wearing pants or riding bicycles to make it more difficult for them to engage in marketing activities.

Reports of clashes between young women and authorities have surfaced, reflecting tensions over the policy as food shortages deepen with a decline in international food aid, he said.

Like Mother Like Daughter

IT'S a question many women ask ... will they look like their mothers when they get older. Now science has provided the answer ... they will.

Plastic surgeons have used new technology to study the ageing process.

For the first time, surgeons in the US used 3D photographic images to quantify the differences in 29 pairs of mothers and daughters who were perceived as similar.

They looked at the periorbital region, around the eyes, and found the ageing process can start in women in their 20s.

"This is one of the most apparent regions and challenging areas for plastic surgeons," Dr Subhas Gupta, who conducted the research, said.

Mothers and daughters have the same skeletal and cellular makeup which is why surgeons can study where the changes occur.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Women & the Reformation

Article by Michael Streich @ Suite 101:
The Protestant Reformation has been both criticized and lauded for altering the medieval status of women. Protestant reformers placed significant emphasis on marriage and the role females played as wives and mothers. Taking their cue from New Testament passages relevant to the divine order, women were to be obedient to their husbands, educate the children, nurture, and show compassion to their spouses.

Women’s Leadership Fund

From City AM:
Cherie Blair, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the ex-prime ministers of Canada and New Zealand will launch one of the first funds to focus its attentions on investing in firms with women executives. The Women’s Leadership Fund, which was initiated by Zurich-based group Naissance Capital, is seeking to invest up to $2bn (£1.2bn) and take up active roles in firms with few women in high positions. The new fund exemplifies a drive to invest in gender diversity. It is also based on a study which shows companies with more women perform better.

Czech Women Protest Against Racism

Some 100 Czech female Roma activists and representatives of civic associations that help Romanies and other ethnic minorities staged a demonstration against mounting intolerance and extremism in Prague Saturday.

The meeting was addressed by Anna Sabatova, chairwoman of the Czech Helsinki Committee, and representatives of the League against Anti-Semitism, the Burma Centre Prague, and other organisations.

People could sign a statement against racism. The organisers want to collect further signatures via the Internet and to hand the statement to politicians in January.

Tales of Chelsea Women

From the Mordialloc Chelsea Leader:

THE achievements of women from the Chelsea area are celebrated in a new book.

Dorothy Meadows and her daughter Linda have compiled the 195-page history, Women of Chelsea and District, which shares the experiences of 29 women from the late 1880s to now.

An 18-month project for Chelsea and District Historical Society, the book includes stories from MP Jenny Lindell, a CSIRO scientist, housewives and businesswomen.

Women of Chelsea and District will sell for $15 at Chelsea Library and the Court House Museum from November 19.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ireland: Women & Farming - A Response

I received a heart-wrenching email in response to the article "Ireland: Women & Farming" in which one reader wrote of her actual experience.

Her name is Portia, and I would like to summarise some of the information she revealed:
  • women are ordered by their husbands to remain home
  • many men object to their wives being employed in jobs that take them away from the farm - especially the work on the farm
  • some men have their wives committed to facilities in order to maintain their control of the family and property
  • many women stand to lose more when the marriage ends, and are often left homeless when the marriage disintergrates, their children often being disinherited

This woman overcame adversity and become empowered, retaking her life back into her own hands. I wish her nothing but the best - she is truly a notable woman.

Note: Please visit - Portia's Story

Australia: Easing Loo Queue

From the Courier Mail:
AFTER years of being left to wait in lengthy queues for a public toilet, women are finally in for some relief.

Changes to the national building code, to come into effect in May, will almost double the number of female toilets in new cinemas and increase female toilets at major sporting venues.

State Infrastructure and Planning Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said a study showed women were forced to wait on average an extra minute to use the toilet at major events. He said men had held the advantage for too long when it came to the interval or half-time dash.

The building changes will help plan for a predicted increase of 141,600 in the number of females living in Queensland by 2011, reaching a total of 2.28 million.

Gujarat: End of Women Coolies

From the Times of India:
Bhavnagar is the only city in the country where all the porters are women.

Butrailway authorities are now showing the red flag. Officials say that railway rules allow badges to be transferred only to male heirs. They also claim that those who have applied for renewal of licences have been told so in writing. In the eyes of the railways, therefore, the women porters are operating illegally.

There’s another reason why the railways want to recruit male coolies. Bhavnagar station is expanding to accommodate increased passenger traffic and the general consensus is that women cannot transport goods from the original platform to the two new ones which are now being used for passenger trains.

Divisional manager Deepak Chabra says, “It is physically not possible for women to carry heavy luggage from one platform to another.”

The 130-year-old tradition of women porters began in 1880 when the original group of firebrand women coolies stormed this male bastion and got their badges from the Maharaja of Bhavnagar, Krishna Pratapsinhji . The king had, in a revolutionary move, decided to employ three women porters at the station.

In time, it became a tradition for women porters to hand down their badges or armbands to their daughters or daughters-in-law . Today, the badges are considered a legacy passed on through generations — something to be flaunted on their arms with pride.

Transport: Women in Hall of Fame

From WIVB:
Six women became the first inductees into the National Transportation Women's Hall of Fame.

Museum President and founder, James Sandoro said, "There's never been a transportation related women's hall of fame and we canvassed the entire country. There's a group of people that think we should have it and have it in Buffalo."

And the women are: Marguerite Hambleton; Mary Martino; Donna Luh; Emily Anderson; Lauren Fix; and the late Alice Ramsey.

Jaipur: Madam Mayor

From the Times of India:
A lottery draw by the directorate of local bodies on Saturday decided that Jaipur along with Kota and Udaipur will have women mayors.

There are 184 urban local bodies (ULBs) in the state which will have a mayor or municipal chairman as their elected chiefs. Out of these 184 posts, 87 have been reserved for women following the 50% quota guidelines.

Besides, 38 posts of mayor/chairman of municipal councils have been reserved for other backward classes (OBCs), out of which 18 have been reserved for women.

In fact, between 1999 and 2004, Jaipur has had two women as mayors. Nirmala Verma took over as the mayor in 1999 and after her demise in 2002, Sheel Dhavai took over. However, both these mayors belonged to the OBC category.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Welsh Wills Online

From BBC News:
About 800,000 pages of documents, some going as far back as the 14th Century, have been placed on the National Library of Wales' website.

Among the wills available at the click of a button are Twm Sion Cati's, known as the Welsh Robin Hood, and hymn writer William Williams, Pantycelyn.

Officials said it had taken more than five years to digitise the documents.

The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth said the wills dated from the 14th Century until 1858, when civil probate was introduced, and 1,000 of them were written in Welsh.

Orkney Venus

From BBC News:
The Orkney Venus, which was discovered a few weeks ago, is a 5,000-year-old female carving which has the UK's first known depiction of a person's face.

The 4cm-tall carving, known by locals as the Westray Wife, will be on show in the ante-room of Edinburgh Castle's Laich Hall along with colourful panels giving information about how and when it was found.

Lady of Pacopampa

From EnPeru:
On the highest terrace of the San Pedro mountain in what is today Chota in Cajamarca, the birth of a girl began what was to be a new episode of the Formative Period some 3000 years ago. Born in the archaeological complex that we now call San Pedro de Pacopampa, the healthy baby girl would be raised to one day lead her people.

With help from his colleagues back in Japan, he discovered that the Lady of Pacopampa had a deformation in the back part of her skull, as well as other mysterious elements such as a bluish substance and cinnabar – usually found in the burials of the most important rulers of ancient Peru.

He is certain that the girl born 3000 years ago was destined from birth to be the leader of their society, something that did indeed happen when she reached adulthood.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tea Party for Lumber Jills

From Mail Online

They were part of the Women's Land Army that kept Britain in business while their menfolk were away at war. But few are likely to have heard of the Lumber Jills and their vital contribution to the country's war effort.

The Women's Timber Corps (WTC), which was set up in the First World War but not formalised in 1942 by the Ministry of Supply (Home Grown Timber Department), worked in the forests to provide wood for the war effort, felling trees, sawing logs and sharpening saws.

It was gruelling, backbreaking work - often carried out in harsh conditions - but 6,000 young women, some only in their mid teens, tackled it without a peep of protest.

Girls were officially recruited from the age of 17 - although some who joined were as young as 14 - and came from all kinds of backgrounds and all walks of life.

Those who needed training were sent to and billeted at training camps such as Shandford Lodge, near Brechin, and then posted to wherever they were needed. -
predominantly in Scotland.

Yet despite their remarkable contribution there was no official recognition of the WTC's efforts during the war - in fact many refer to them as the ‘Forgotten Corps'.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Oman: Fund For Divorced Women

From the Khaleej Times:
A national seminar, in which Oman’s key policymakers actively participated, has called for setting up a fund to pay alimony to women divorced by their husbands.

The ‘Symposium on Women’, which ended on Monday in Sohar, also made a plea to set up marriage guidance centres for women and pave the way for women to become judges.

The conference, the first of its kind in the country and organised on orders from His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, underlined the need to clarify laws governing women and the family to avoid misinterpretation.

The delegates decided to mark October 17, the day on which the three-day symposium opened, as ‘Omani Women’s Day’ every year.

A communiqué issued after the three-day event urged the authorities to promulgate a law setting up a ‘Livelihood Fund’ for women that must also clearly state their rights and that of their children in the event of a divorce.

“The divorce should not negatively impact their living conditions and health and the education of their children. This will avoid the full burden of the divorce falling on the mother alone,” it pointed out.

UAE: Women Cadet Get Their Wings

From Al Bawaba:
Etihad Airways’ first female Emirati cadet pilots - Salma Al-Baloushi and Aisha Al-Mansouri - have successfully graduated from flight training alongside nine male colleagues and gained their airline transport pilot licence (ATPL).

Etihad Airways’ first female Emirati cadet pilots - Salma Al-Baloushi and Aisha Al-Mansouri - have successfully graduated from flight training alongside nine male colleagues and gained their airline transport pilot licence (ATPL).

The cadet pilots, Etihad’s second group to graduate, were conferred with their flying wings in a ceremony at the airline’s training academy which was attended by family and friends as well as senior management from Etihad Airways and the Horizon International Flight Academy.

Guinea: Women Targetted

From NPR:
The people of the West African nation of Guinea are still struggling to deal with the trauma of a deadly military crackdown on a pro-democracy rally last month.

It was not the first time troops in Guinea have opened fire on civilians. What has shocked people most is that women were targeted in a wave of alleged sexual violence perpetrated by soldiers in public — in broad daylight.

But it's the soldiers' brutal assaults on women that have so shaken French-speaking Guinea. The people's refrain is "C'est du jamais vu" — never before have we witnessed such acts.

"What was new about the sexual violence on Sept. 28 and in the days after has been the public nature of it — the stripping of women, raping them, putting the barrels of guns inside their vaginas," she says. "This type of thing has been extremely shocking to Guineans — a very, very conservative society that have simply never seen this type of thing before."

Graphic images of assaults have been circulating online and in e-mails and cell phone text messages. Human-rights campaigners say dozens of women were victimized, though the true number may never be known, because many women in Guinea are afraid to come forward.

Ireland: Women & Farming

From the Irish Times:
WOMEN ARE no longer prepared to be “invisible” in Irish farming, Maireád Lavery, the head of the Agri-Aware organisation, said yesterday.

She was speaking to about 600 attending the Women in Agriculture conference in Athlone, which discussed both the role played by women on farms and areas of concern, including property rights, inheritance and divorce in relation to farmland.

Although women carried out up to 25 per cent of work on farms, there were few registered female farm owners, and representation in the farm organisations was very low and did not reflect the realities, Ms Lavery said.

Dr Maureen Gaffney, psychologist and writer, said Fortune 500 research on top US companies had shown when women were involved in senior management, companies performed much better than where there was little or no female involvement.

This research, she said, pointed the way for Irish agriculture, where women’s involvement at the highest levels would generate more profitability and better all-round structures. There was a clear opportunity now for more involvement by women.

Kuwait: Passports For Women

From Gulf Daily News:
Kuwaiti women will now be able to obtain their own passports and travel without the prior consent of their husbands following a ruling yesterday.

The constitutional court abrogated an article in the 1962 passports law that prevented a woman from getting her own passport without her husband's prior approval. The court said that the article was in violation of a number of provisions in the constitution which guarantee personal freedom and gender equality. The decision came after a Kuwaiti woman complained that her husband had refused to give her and their three children their passports and other personal identification documents so he could prevent them from leaving the country.

FIJI: Womens' Crisis Centre Recieves Aid

From Xinhuanet:
Fiji will benefit from Australia's provision of 9.2 million Fiji dollars (4.9 million U.S. dollars) over the next six years as part of its continued support to the work of the Fiji Women's Crisis Center (FWCC) as more women experience violence in their homes.

These funds will enable the FWCC to provide crisis counseling, legal advice, advocacy, training, education and awareness, and other support services for women survivors of violence in the island nation as well as their neighboring countries.

Signing a funding agreement in Suva on Tuesday, the Australian High Commissioner, James Batley, noted that the FWCC has been performing this vital role for 25 years and Australia was proud to provide financial support to the Center since 1989.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Film: Amelia Earhart

From USA Today:
More than seven decades after she flew off into the wild blue yonder, Earhart is fixed in the American consciousness more firmly than ever — maybe as much as she was in the 1930s, when she was a world-famous aviator, hero-worshiped by millions. She was one of the first mega-celebrities, who did things few people had ever done, let alone women. In 1937, she tried to circumnavigate the globe in a Lockheed Electra — and was never heard from again.

At a time when women had only recently acquired the right to vote, when people (well, men) actually believed women couldn't fly because their periods would make them go berserk in the cockpit, and when flying was a truly dangerous occupation, Earhart cheerily defied conventions and got away with it. She lectured, wrote a magazine column, designed clothes and luggage, endorsed products, promoted aviation.

And she set records: In 1928 she was the first woman to cross the Atlantic in a plane, as a passenger. In 1932 she was the first woman to fly the Atlantic alone.

Divas on Screen

From Associated Press:
Dorothy Dandridge was the first black woman nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. Almost a half century passed before another black woman — Halle Berry — won the award.

They and three others — Pam Grier, Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey — are subjects of the new book "Divas on Screen: Black Women in American Film."

"These women have pushed the racial boundaries for audiences, setting new standards for beauty and body type," said author Mia Mask.

She took on the book because, while black male stars are now enjoying huge success, little has been written about their female counterparts — as performers who can headline a film, said Mask, who teaches film and drama at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Interview: Mireille Guiliano

From Time:
In her two previous books, French author Mireille Guiliano instructs women on how to live their lives to the fullest by, ironically enough, not eating to the fullest. She insists that the French have the right answers, pointing to the French joie de vivre as one of the reasons why the country's women stay so infuriatingly thin. (The title of her first book says it all: French Women Don't Get Fat.) In her latest book, Women, Work & the Art of Savoir Faire: Business Sense & Sensibility, released in the U.S. last week, Guiliano tackles the business world, using her distinctive French philosophy and her 20 years of experience as a spokesperson for Veuve Cliquot to give women advice on striking the right balance between their personal and professional lives. TIME spoke with Guiliano about the book and why she believes women are smarter than men.

Sorry to Comfort Women

From the Chosun IIbo:
Japanese who believe that Tokyo should apologize for drafting thousands of Asian woman as sex slaves for the Imperial Army in World War II outnumber those who think otherwise for the first time, a straw poll suggests.

The Northeast Asian History foundation commissioned Gallup Korea to poll 527 Seoul citizens, and 500 citizens each in Beijing and Tokyo from Aug. 1 to 9. In the poll released Monday, 48.9 percent of respondents in Tokyo said Japan should apologize to the "comfort women," while 30.3 percent said it does not need to.

Some 53.6 percent of Japanese women and 57.8 percent of Japanese respondents in their 30s and 40s said Japan should apologize. Men made up 38.1 percent of those who thought Japan need not apologize, and older people 34.5 percent.

When the survey began in 2007, only 38.4 percent of Japanese said Tokyo should say sorry, with 50.4 percent against.

Commando Protects Indian Journalists

From Thaindian News:
“Main Aap Ki Jaan Bachaane Kay Liye Apni Jaan De Doonga” (I will lay down my life to protect yours)” was the assurance given to delegates at the first regional conference of South Asian Women in Media in Lahore last week by Ali, a commando in-charge of escort and security.

That the delegation had 32 women journalists from India was well known to Ali and he made this statement inside the bus carrying a large number of them.

For him, his duty was the priority and current hostility in Indo-Pak relations was not going to hamper his commitment to protect the Indians in any way. Ali was reassuring the delegates after the news of the army headquarters in Rawalpindi being attacked by terrorists started filtering in.

Ali and his team, along with four other three-member commando teams of Punjab Police were on 12-hour duty each day, relieved by another set of five teams in the night outside the hotel where the delegates were hosted. Every morning, he used to greet the Indians and the Afghans who understood Hindi with a ‘Salaam Alekum’ and bid them goodbye with a ‘Khuda Hafeez’.

China: Summit of Women in Business

From Korea Newswire:
2009 China Businesswomen Summit will be held in Shanghai Grand Hyatt Hotel and Shanghai International Conference Center from 20th Nov. 2009 to 22nd Nov.2009.

Since 30 years of reforming and opening up to the world and the 60 years foundation of the country, female entrepreneurs are always a force to be reckoned with in the business world. In 2009, under the serious situation of financial crisis, they still lead their organization steadily and continuously by their wisdom, strong will, moral conduct, personality, carefulness and unique female glamour. Female leadership also put glorious greatly under the crisis.

NPMA: Women of Excellence

From Reuters:
The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) announced Emily Thomas Kendrick, president and chief operating officer of Arrow Exterminators, is this year`s recipient of the Women of Excellence Award, presented by Orkin, Inc. NPMA will recognize Thomas Kendrick at its convention in Las Vegas, October 28.

"The Women of Excellence Award is an important recognition for women pest control professionals," said Rob Lederer, executive vice president for NPMA. "We are extremely proud to extend the award to Emily for her contributions to advance the pest control industry."

The selection process for the award was highly competitive, as the international honor was open to women across the profession. In the award`s inaugural year, NPMA received numerous nominations for talented professionals who make notable contributions to the development and growth of the profession and other women.

Egypt: Phone Stalking

From BBC News:
It is well known that sexual harassment is a pervasive problem in Egypt, from touching to lewd and abusive cat calls.

But it seems there is another phenomenon that goes largely unreported, phone stalking. With the advance of modern technology a large number of women complain they receive the unwelcome and relentless attention of men they have never met.

Most of the harassment - calls and texts - are from young men who ring numbers at random, and often the conversations are fairly commonplace. But occasionally they can lead to something more sinister.

In fact in a survey last year of 2,000 women by the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights, 83% said they had encountered some form of sexual harassment - 23% said they were receiving obscene phone calls. But even so, statistics on how widespread this is are hard to come by.

Nonetheless there are those who believe phone stalking is symptomatic of a bigger issue.

And yet all too often the harassment goes unreported. Either women don't believe it will be taken seriously or they don't want the added frustration of the red tape.

USA: Violence Against Women Rising

From CNN:
Fifteen years after passage of the Violence Against Women Act to combat physical abuse of women and girls, domestic violence remains especially acute among Native American and Alaska Native women, Justice officials said Monday.

"The levels of violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women are shocking, and cannot be tolerated," said Deputy Attorney General David Ogden. "Indeed, in some tribal land counties, murder rates for American Indian and Alaska Native women are 10 times the national average."

A new report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics released Monday said its victimization survey showed 652,000 incidents of overall violent crime inflicted by intimate partners in 2008.

More than 550,000 violent incidents targeted women; 101,050 targeted men.

Most of the incidents were classified as simple assaults, but there were 111,530 cases of aggravated assault, 44,000 rapes and sexual assaults and 38,820 robberies.

The number of homicides by intimate partners rose slightly in the past two years, while the cases of nonfatal intimate partner violence continued to decline, the Justice Department report said.

Somalia: Bras Get A Whipping

From Fox News:
Somalia’s hardline Islamist group al Shabaab is cracking down on residents who do not follow a strict form of Sharia Islamic law, now publicly whipping women who wear bras, the Times of India reported.

Residents tell the paper that gunmen have been gathering women in Mogadishu who are perceived to have firm busts. These women are then publicly whipped by masked men as punishment for what Islamist leaders call deception.

After the public whippings, the women are forced to remove their bras and shake their breasts, the Times reported.

“Al Shabaab forced us to wear their type of veil and now they order us to shake our breasts,” a resident, Halima, told the Times of India. Her daughters were whipped for wearing bras.

“They first banned the former veil and introduced a hard fabric which stands stiffly on women’s chests. They are now saying that breasts should be firm naturally, or just flat,” she said.

The insurgent group recently amputated a foot and a hand from two young men accused of robbery. Al Shabaab has also banned movies, musical ringtones, dancing at wedding ceremonies and playing or watching soccer.

Malalai Joya: A Woman Among Warlords

From Canadian Press:
"A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice" by Malalai Joya with Derrick O'Keefe (Scribner)

At 31, Malalai Joya has a long and courageous record of fighting for women's rights in Afghanistan. Now she is focusing on war lords, drug lords and corruption and the leaders she sees as supporting them.

Joya is an energetic political warrior. Born just before the Soviet invasion, she spent much of her childhood in foreign refugee camps where the family fled because of her father's political activity.

Her own dissident career began as a teenager secretly teaching women to read. That was a subversive activity when the Taliban temporarily ruled Afghanistan. The Taliban are extremist Muslims and narrowly restrict education of women.

Soon she was running her own clandestine girls' school. A burka - the tentlike garment the Taliban wanted all women to wear - proved useful to hide loads of books that might have aroused suspicion.

Elected to Parliament after the Taliban was defeated, Joya traded epithets with other members she calls drug lords, former puppets of the Soviets and war lords responsible for thousands of murders in the civil war.

They called her prostitute, infidel, traitor and communist. She compared them to animals in a zoo or a stable and was suspended during the rest of her term for insulting colleagues.

Influential Women in Business 2009

From Reuters:
Harris District Executives Julie Curran and Daniela O'Leary-Gill were today named among The Business Ledger's 22 Influential Women in Business for 2009.

The Business Ledger's Influential Women in Business awards were created to identify and recognize women who not only have succeeded in their careers, but also exerted influence in the community at large; and to draw attention to the unique challenges that women still face in the upper echelons of the business and professional worlds.

The 12th annual "class" of honorees will be recognized during a Nov. 12 awards luncheon co-hosted by the Chicago Area Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), and profiled in an upcoming edition of The Business Ledger.

USA: Women Dominate Workforce

From Ms.Magazine:
For the first time in US history women are about to become the majority of the nation's paid workers. The recently released Shriver Report: A Women's Nation Changes Everything is a comprehensive study of this milestone. Today, women are the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in 63.3% of American families.

Though women are about to be the majority of US paid workers, women are still discriminated against in wages, benefits, pensions, and social security. Workers still do not have paid family medical leave guaranteed nationwide (although numerous countries do) and very limited public funded child care. In fact, half of all women employees do not have one paid sick day. Moreover, the federal guarantee of unpaid Family Medical Leave only covers 47% of private sector workers.

Mexico: Pink Only Taxis

From the Latin American Herald:
With astonishment and curiosity, the residents of this central Mexican city are watching 35 pink taxis – driven by female cabbies and picking up only women as customers – travel back and forth on local streets.

Fears about safety – in certain zones of Mexico – has spurred people to begin offering transportation services just for women to avoid inconvenience, harm of one sort or another or, in some cases, even physical abuse of women by male taxi drivers.

In Mexico City, since last year there have existed buses just for women but Metro cars specifically reserved for women in rush hour have existed for quite some time.

Currently, the municipal transportation office in Puebla has invested a total of 5.6 million pesos ($430,000) in the project.
This wonderful service is taking off in many Muslim countries and is proving to be very successful.

India: Women & Witchcraft

From the Times of India:
Four persons were arrested on Monday for allegedly stripping and thrashing five women. Apparently, the latter had been practising witchcraft that resulted in villagers falling on hard times. The incident occurred at Patharghatia village under Paljori police station in Deoghar district on Sunday.

Superintendent of police Praveen Kumar Srivastava said raids were on to arrest seven others, who were instrumental in instigating the villagers against the five, all members of a minority community. Those who have been named in the FIR included Khutena Bibi, Rahmat Mian, Sakina Bibi, Budhu Mian and seven others.

Reports said the bizarre incident took place after a local mullah held five women responsible for all the odds that the villagers had been up against for a while because of the spell of black magic allegedly cast by the quintet.

Cases have been loodged against the villagers, especially the 11 accused in the case, at Palajori PS the same day the culprits dragged out the five women from their houses and thrashed them while hundreds of villagers, including women, remained mute spectators throughout the incident. The cruelty of the accused persons, comprising women hailing from the same community, could be gauged from the fact that all the victims were stripped in public and paraded for hours while they kept on pleading their innocence.

The role of the police in this connection has also come under the scanner as they did not turn up on time to prevent the stripping of the five women and the inhuman treatment meted out to them. For, by the time they reached the village, the accused had fled.

Reports said the family members of the victims were also threatened with dire consequences when they made a feeble attempt to rescue the women from the clutches of their tormentors.

Tension, meanwhile, prevailed in the village and its adjoining locality following the incident.

Iraq: Women Only Bank

From Associated Press:
An Iraqi bank has opened a branch entirely dedicated to and operated by women in the holy Shiite Muslim city of Najaf, its chief, who admitted even he could not enter, told AFP Monday.

Abdel Razzaq Mansur, the chief executive of Babylon Bank, said the branch which opened on Sunday had so far worked with 50 clients and expected to be dealing with about 200 within a year.

"In Najaf, there are many women who are business women, and they have companies in many different lines of work," he said, noting the branch's 25-strong staff were composed entirely of women.

The only men working for the branch were special security guards stationed outside the bank on the street, Mansur said.

It will provide loans, investments, deposits and savings in both Iraqi dinars and US dollars.

Abortion: The True Cost

From Medical News Today:
"70,000 Women Die Annually From Unsafe Abortions, Guttmacher Study Finds"

Increased contraception use has contributed to a decline in global abortion rates, but unsafe abortions continue to kill 70,000 women and girls annually, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Guttmacher Institute, Reuters reports. The number of abortions decreased from about 45.5 million in 1995 to 41.6 million in 2003, a period during which many countries relaxed restrictions on the procedure, the report said (Kelland, Reuters, 10/13). The global abortion rate declined from 35 abortions for every 1,000 women of reproductive age -- ages 15 to 44 -- in 1995 to 29 per 1,000 women of reproductive age in 2003, according to the report (Feldmann, Christian Science Monitor, 10/13). In addition to the thousands of deaths from unsafe abortions, five million women experience complications from unsafe procedures each year, including about three million who go untreated (Guttmacher Institute release, 10/13).

According to the report, 40% of women live in nations with highly restrictive abortion laws (Reuters, 10/13). The report found that 19 countries have "significantly reduced restrictions in their abortion laws" since 1997, and three countries have "substantially increased legal restrictions," the Christian Science Monitor reports. Ninety-two percent of women in Africa live under highly restrictive abortion laws, while the figure is 97% in Latin America, the Monitor reports (Christian Science Monitor, 10/13).

CFA: Women Needed

From The Standard:
A NEW program to help women get involved and get the most out of volunteering in the Country Fire Authority was launched yesterday as part of bushfire action week.

The Women and Fire mentoring program is designed to develop the participation and leadership potential of women who volunteer with the Country Fire Authority.

Only 19 per cent of Victorian CFA volunteers are women and this new program is aimed at expanding involvement to better reflect community demographics.

The program has been developed by Community Connections' Sustaining Volunteerism Initiative in conjunction with CFA South West Area.

"Traditionally the emergency services has been a male dominated field but it's now becoming apparent with climate change and increasing in events and severity, we need to utilise all members of the community," she said.

The program is jointly funded by the Department of Planning and Community Development, the National Emergency Volunteer Support Fund, the Victorian Women's Trust, with in-kind support from the CFA and Community Connections.

Spain: Abortion Protests

From Associated Press:
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Madrid Saturday to condemn plans by Spain's socialist government to liberalise abortion laws in the overwhelmingly Catholic country.

In warm autumnal sunshine, protesters staged an early evening march across the city behind a huge banner reading "Every Life Matters" to protest the plan, which would allow girls of 16 to undergo abortions without their parents' consent.

The crowd, which included many families and people of all ages, rallied in the central Plaza de Independencia, where pop music blared over loudspeakers and 300 white helium balloons were released.

The proposed abortion law, approved by the cabinet last month, would allow the procedure on demand for women of 16 and over up to the 14th week of pregnancy, and up to 22 weeks if there was a risk to the mother's health or if the foetus was deformed.

Women could also undergo the procedure after 22 weeks if the foetus had a serious or incurable illness.

Spain decriminalised abortion in 1985, a decade after the death of right-wing dictator Francisco Franco, but only for certain cases: up to 12 weeks of pregnancy after a rape; up to 22 weeks in the case of malformation of the foetus; and at any point if the pregnancy represents a threat to the physical or mental health of the woman.