First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton vowed to grant $14.5 million for projects that would aid women’s leadership training, help children who have been abducted by rebels, and improve crop and economic security in Uganda. Clinton spoke of the U.S. government’s hope to help end the violence in Uganda, where 800,000 people were killed in ethnic wars in 1994. Clinton said, “We will work with you to build your country,” and, “We should stand up for the right of all persons to be fully human.”
Clinton also spoke about a meeting she had with the mother of a girl who was abducted by suspected rebels. She said, “There is no greater sin than to rape young girls and send them into slavery.”
3/26/1998 - U.N. Worker Faces Sex Harassment Charges
Foreign and Pakistani United Nations female staff members in Islamabad have filed 11 complaints of sexual harassment against a U.N. Development Program (UNDP) employee. The U.N. said in a statement that it has sent a team from the New York-based UNDP to investigate the allegations.
Asma Jehangir, a women’s rights activist and human rights lawyer, said “In Pakistan it is not easy to come forward. ... The majority of people would still have the attitude that when you go out of the house, this is what you are asking for.”
The Maryland House of Representatives voted 70 to 65 to allow the state-funded procedure only in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger. Currently, abortions to protect a woman's mental health can be state-funded.
The bill must pass before the Senate before it can become law. Senate legislators have vowed to reject the new restriction.
The proposed state funds would grant $29 million to expand health coverage to children and pregnant women who have incomes that are up to twice the poverty level.
Feminist News Stories on Abortion
Doug Golden, the grandfather of one of the suspects charged with the fatal shootings of four female students and a teacher, and with seriously injuring 10 females at an Arkansas school, said that his grandson probably used the scope on one of the guns to target females. “They were selected because of their sex or who they were. It was not a random shooting where you just shoot out there, because if that had been true, he would have shot as many boys as there were girls,” he said during an ABC interview. Golden also acknowledged that guns taken from his house did match those used in the crime.
According to an Associated Press article, the Arkansas massacre was the third fatal school shooting in the U.S. in five months. Last October, two students were killed in Pearl, Mississippi. In December, a boy shot into a crowd at a high school prayer circle in West Paducah, Kentucky; three students were killed and five were wounded. All of the victims in the shootings were female.
Dr. Sabine Hack, a psychiatrist NYU Child Study Center, commented on the shootings. She said, "Some mental health professionals also suggested that the school shooting, in which girls have been the main victims, reflected a trickling down to younger ages of the sex patterns that lead many men to stalk and kill their ex-wives or girlfriends."
Andrew Golden, 11, and Mitchell Johnson, 13, have been charged with five counts of murder and 10 counts of battery. They are being held by authorities until an April 29 hearing. Classmates of the boys have stated that Johnson’s girlfriend had recently broken up with him and that Johnson had said “he had a lot of killing to do.” Doug Golden said that a 30.06 rifle, a .44-caliber Magnum with scopes, a WWII .33-caliber carbine, a .38-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver and a .22-caliber Magnum two-barrel Derringer were all missing from his Jonesboro home. The white van that was loaded with guns and ammunition and was found parked a half-mile away from the school had been taken from the Johnson’s home.
Four girls and one teacher were brutally murdered yesterday when two boys, ages 11 and 13, opened fire outside the Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Another female teacher and five girls were listed in stable condition, while three girls and a boy were all treated for injures and released from the hospital. Fourteen of the fifteen shooting victims were female.
The two boys were armed with handguns and rifles, some of which officials believe were semiautomatics. Police suspect that the boys waited in a wooded area behind the school while another student pulled the fire alarm inside the school. When the teachers and students fled the school the boys shot into the crowd. The boys then ran toward a white van, parked a half-mile away, that was filled with guns and ammunition. Authorities have identified the fatal shooting victims as Natalie Brooks, Paige Ann Herring, Stephanie Johnson, all age 12, Brittany R. Varner (11), and teacher Shannon Wright (32).
3/25/1998 - Testimony Continues in NOW vs. Scheidler
Testimony in NOW vs. Scheidler continued as anti-abortion leaders admitted that they were involved in blockades and activities intended to close down the clinics. Tim Murphy and Andrew Scholberg, former employees of the Pro-Life Action League, testified that they were present at annual meetings with Joseph Scheidler and that they planned blockades and training sessions.
Judge David Coar denied the defendants’ request to show a video of former Operation Rescue leader Randall Terry preaching on the “evils of abortion.”
Judge Coar asked plaintiffs to testify and describe the costs to the clinics for “specific acts” by the anti-abortion groups. Testimony was given by Susan Hill, president of the National Women’s Health Organization and owner of an abortion clinic in Wilmington, Delaware. Hill said that the clinic hired armed guards, installed metal detectors and 24-hour surveillance monitors and hired a locksmith to unplug locks that were filled with glue by anti-abortion extremists.
NOW attorneys claim that the blockades were in violation of the Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organization Act. Attorney Kerry Miller said, “Blockading is extortion. It’s the use of fear and force to prevent someone from exercising their rights.”
Sri Lankan Women’s Affairs Minister Hema Ratnayake said that the People’s Alliance government will pass legislation that requires a minimum of 25 percent representation for women in all elected groups. Although Sri Lanka’s president and prime minister are both women, historian Lorna Dewarajah noted that most of the area’s female politicians were either wives or daughters of popular officials.
Yasmin Tambiah, a researcher at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES), said that the quota should be short-term and should include “gender sensitive training” and public education of women’s importance by both political parties and government. “These actions will enable women from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds to consider entering politics, rather than limiting such activity to women from political families,” said Tambiah.
A Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) report entitled, “Mapping Progress: Assessing Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action,” documents that 70% of countries have drawn up plans for implementing the platform of the Fourth World Conference on Women. Despite these plans governments enacted policies that have impeded women’s access to employment, health care, education, property, credit and housing. Susan Davis, WEDO’s executive director, said “On balance, women are still the shock absorbers for structural change.”
WEDO received surveys from non-governmental organizations concerning the progress of 88 of the countries that were represented at the conference.
The report indicates that 45 percent of the countries have passed legislation that has decreased women’s employment levels and 28 percent have reduced education programs for females. Women living in the countries that are moving toward free-market economies have been hit the hardest, the report said.
Women’s unemployment averages about 70 percent in Armenia, Russia, Bulgaria and Croatia and is up to 80 percent in the Ukraine. Other countries export large quantities of merchandise are employing more and more women in factories, demanding “cheap and docile labor that can be used in low-skill, repetitive jobs in unsafe and insecure conditions without minimum guarantees.”
The report also detailed inhumane working conditions, as women migrant workers routinely “suffer gross violations of their human rights, ranging from inhuman working conditions to physical violence, and even rape and murder.”
3/25/1998 - House Committee Passes IMF Funding Bill
The U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved legislation that would grant $18 billion to the International Monetary Fund and $505 million to the United Nations for past U.S. dues. Republicans still plan to add anti-abortion language that would forbid the granting of funds to organizations that attempt to aid in family planning. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin sent a letter to the Committee’s chairman Bob Livingston, stating, “Unfortunately, the bill’s proposed language is still very problematic and, in the end, we believe it would be unworkable.”
President Clinton has vowed to veto the bill if the proposed anti-abortion language is included in the legislation.
3/25/1998 - UNPF, IPPF Launch Women’s Rights Campaign
The United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) are launching a campaign aimed at heightening global awareness that women’s rights are human rights. The event marks 1998 as the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Human Rights Year.
The Face to Face campaign will include U.N. special Ambassador Waris Dirie, a Somalian supermodel who endured and is an activist against female genital mutilation. Dirie said, “I see myself as an ambassador on behalf of my sisters in Africa. I have seen them suffer and die from this practice.”
The campaign will be initiated in 14 countries across Europe and will focus on women’s health programs, sex education, HIV prevention, and other reproductive and sexual health issues.
3/25/1998 - Women Fight Mining Co. for Sacred Land
Protesters in northern New South Wales are refusing to let Ross Mining, one of Australia’s largest mining companies, go ahead with plans to mine ancestral land, citing loss of birthrights, including sacred lands and sites, by Aboriginal women. Ross Mining officials have reached an agreement with the New South Wales Lands Council and a regional corporation created specifically to sign the agreement, but local groups insist that the contract is not valid since the individuals who signed have no real authority.
Kathy Malera-Bandjalan, the leading protester, said that mining the land of the traditional, matrilineal Malera people’s land would “cease [their] existence as a people.” Malera-Bandjalan said, “It’s about women’s strength, women’s identity, their role as providers. For too long Aboriginal women have been denied even their first right - their birthright to practice their matrilineal law, to remember and pass to their daughters and grand-daughters the Dreaming stories of their Law and their culture.”
Malera Campaign Information
The United Nations announced that it has shut down its operations in Southern Afghanistan, the geographical center of operations for the Taliban army, because of harassment by the Taliban and restrictions placed on women humanitarian workers. U.N. spokeswoman Sarah Russell said, "The decision (to withdraw) was prompted by persistent interference by the Taliban authorities in the southern region in the U.N. programs ... the harassment of U.N. staff and repeated assaults on U.N. staff." The U.N. has demanded a written statement from the Taliban stating that U.N. activities will take place "in accordance with international norms."
The Taliban militia group is unrecognized by the U.N., but rules 85 percent of Afghanistan. The group has issued decrees that amount to gender apartheid and the blatant eradication of women's human rights, including: prohibiting women from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a husband, son or father, requiring women to wear a head-to-toe covering called a burqa, forbidding women and girls to attend school or to receive care from a male doctor that is not a relative.
Last week the Taliban issued an order that all Muslim foreign women in the country must obey their decrees. Two U.N. workers were ordered to leave by Taliban soldiers.
Russell said that the withdrawal will result in temporary shutdowns of programs that removed land mines, rebuilt homes and repaired irrigation systems.
Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan
Feminist News Stories on Afghanistan
3/24/1998 - Women Fight to Pray Aloud at Sacred Wall
Members of a Jerusalem women’s group called Women of the Wall have been trying to get arrested for violating “Regulation 13” during monthly meetings at the Western Wall where they read scriptures aloud. According to “Regulation 13,” a law that prohibits any acts at the Wall that offend worshipers, women are not permitted to read aloud, as the men do. “Women are not allowed to pray aloud. Our voices are considered to be provocative and lewd,” said Women of the Wall member Betsy Cohen-Kallus.
The Western Wall consists of the remains of the Sacred Temple that was built in 20 B.C. and destroyed by Romans 90 years later. The 110-member group has been gathering at the Wall for nine years. When the women first began to read aloud the men threw plastic chairs at the women from across the fence that segregates the sexes. The Religious Affairs Ministry, controlled by the ultra-orthodox, released a statement claiming the members of Women of the Wall “operate with an unclean core called women’s liberation.”
Many of the women immigrated from the U.S. and practice western feminism. A group member said, “We get it from the ultra-Orthodox, who feel women’s lips should move but their voices should not be heard. And we get it from the macho secular men, who say this is a country under siege, and women and children should stay behind to be protected.”
The issue has moved from Israel’s parliament, to courts to a ministerial study committee and has not been resolved.
The settlement reached in the class-action sexual harassment case, Martens v. Smith Barney, has been deemed "unconscionable" by lead plaintiffs Pam Martens, Judith Mione, and the New York City and New York State chapters of NOW. A statement by the plaintiffs declared that the settlement is "yet another dirty deal from Wall St."
Under the settlement, only the 23 named plaintiffs will receive financial compensation, dividing about 1.9 million among them. The attorneys are expected to receive as much as $12.9 million. The remaining 20,000 class members will not receive any money from this settlement, and class members will be barred from taking any existing claim of sexual discrimination, harassment, or retaliation to court, whether as an individual or through another class action lawsuit.
A federal judge will review the settlement during a "fairness hearing" on April 9th.
The U.S. Supreme Court let stand an Ohio appeals court ruling, in Voinovich v. Women's Medical Professional Corp., that overturned a ban on "partial-birth" abortions. The Supreme Court justices did not offer an explanation for the decision.
Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia all voted to hear the case. Thomas said the Supreme Court's decision "cast unnecessary doubt on the validity" of laws passed in 38 states that limit reproductive rights.
The Ohio law to ban some late-term abortions was passed three years ago, was immediately challenged and never enforced. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the law unconstitutional due to vague wording describing the banned abortion procedure and the lack of exemptions for women who would have suffered "severe psychological or emotional injury" without the abortion.
Simon Heller of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy in New York said the court's refusal to hear the case "should be a wake-up call to state legislators across the nation that the Constitution does not allow them to interfere with women's personal medical decisions."
Alphonse Gerhardstein, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said the court's decision was "a decisive victory for doctors and women's reproductive freedom ... [and] a clear message to lawmakers that they must put the Constitution over politics."
Feminist News Stories on Abortion
3/24/1998 - FDA Allows Access to New Breast Cancer Drug
The Food and Drug Administration determined that women should have access to a new breast cancer pill called Xeloda while the manufacturer, Hoffman-La Roche, attempts to prove its capabilities. FDA advisers claimed that the drug should be available to women for whom alternative methods of treatment do not prove effective.
Xeloda, known as capecitabine, is a pill that is converted by the body into the drug 5FU when it reaches a tumor. In a study of 162 patients who were resistant to Taxol, the leading breast cancer drug, 20 percent reported that their tumors shrank to half their original size. A separate study of 43 patients who were resistant to Taxol and anthracyclines, another popular treatment, 25 percent of the patients reported improvement.
The FDA usually requires drug companies to prove that their drugs will offer "clinical benefit" and better quality of life. The side effects of the drug are diarrhea and numb and swollen feet hands.
Approximately 44,000 women die each year from breast cancer.
3/24/1998 - WHO Program Tests Inexpensive Prenatal Care
The World Health Organization is supporting a program designed to test whether women can safely have as little as four prenatal check-ups during a pregnancy. The program is testing 20,000 pregnant women in Argentina, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.
Many poor women cannot afford the accepted 8 to 12 recommended check-ups. Doctor Guillermo Carroli, head of the survey in Argentina, said the study will compare the cost, safety, and effectiveness of the new system of four visits to the old one.
The study will include healthy women between the ages of 16 and 40. They will receive exams, supplements of iron and folic acid, and will have their weight and blood pressure monitored.
Members of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) are concerned about the increasing list of countries that will not ratify the treaty. Out of 161 countries who are ratifying, 44 have said that they will not include certain provisions of the treaty because of religious, political, cultural or constitutional grounds. Head of CEDAW Salma Khan said, “If a country enters a reservation on the very basis of the convention - which guarantees the general principle of equality - then it really becomes a matter of concern.”
Many of the countries are refusing to implement Articles 2 and 16. Article 2 requires countries to agree to take all necessary measures to ensure the equality of women. Article 16 asks countries to ensure women’s political, civil, economic, cultural and legal rights. Khan commented, “...when you enter a reservation on Article 2, you are violating and nullifying the whole concept and sense of the convention.”
The 44 countries who will not implement all of the treaty include: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, China, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, South Korea, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom and Venezuela. Right-wing U.S. Congressional members are forbidding ratification of the treaty which they deem a “Bill of Rights for Women.”
A coalition of women’s organizations issued a statement last week, demanding “the universal ratification of the Convention and the removal of all limiting reservations, as the Beijing Platform directs, by the year 2000.” The Under-Secretary-General Mary Robinson, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, has vowed to campaign for the ratification of the Convention.
Help Ratify CEDAW
3/23/1998 - “Mama of Da Da” Dies at 105
Internationally acclaimed artist Beatrice Wood, known professionally as Beato and the “Mama of Da Da,” died earlier this month. Wood was known for her ceramic sculptures, drawings and lithographs. Wood wrote more than 6 books and a play and studied painting at the French Academie Julien, acting with a member of the Theatre Francais and dancing with Klyustin, Pavlova’s matre de ballet.
“Titanic” director James Cameron patterned the older “Rose” character after Wood, who is seen creating pots at a wheel. Wood became interested in ceramics when she decided to make a teapot to match a set of teacups from Holland. She set up her own studio in Los Angeles in 1937.
Wood is known as the “Mama of Da Da” for the major role she played in establishing arts’ post-WWI, Da Da movement, and her relationships with French novelist Henri Pierre Roche and artist Marcele DuChamp.
Wood’s autobiography, I Shock Myself, was published in 1985.
Many women who search for mentors in their profession have found only men in top-level positions and that these men are often unwilling to offer advice. Debra Meyerson, a researcher at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Stanford University, said that mentoring “is important for everybody, but it’s probably even more important for women.”
Ted Childs, vice-president of global work force diversity at IBM, which runs a twenty-year-old mentoring program, said that mentor relationships usually happen naturally, “But generally the beneficiaries have been white men, because they were in the senior positions, and they would mentor people who came along with whom they had things in common,” usually younger white men.
Men, however, are quickly realizing that female supervisors can provide more than adequate advice. Robert Cordero, a counselor at a rehabilitation clinic in New York, said that his views of professional women have changed. “I’m from the old school...you know, men are men, and we don’t need to be asking the women. But I’ve gotten past that. She’s helped me with that,” Cordero said. “I probably wouldn’t be where I’m at professionally [without her advice].”
Hillary Rodham Clinton called for equal opportunities for women and praised the nation of Ghana for prohibiting female genital mutilation (FGM) in a speech at a Ghanaian day-care center today. Rodham Clinton said that women need greater access to education and the law. “...We empower women to make the right choices for themselves. ... too many women are treated as children under the laws of their own nation,” she said.
Rodham Clinton commented on the roles that women in Africa play, “I have seen women building with their own hands their own homes. I have seen women working against diseases that are ravaging the children of your continent.”
She also spoke of the ban on FGM. “I want to congratulate this nation for your leadership, not only by passing a law outlawing this practice but by making sure this law changes hearts and minds so that individuals understand what the law means and why it should be enforced in every village,” she said.
Feminist News Stories on Female Genital Mutilation
According to a U.N. report, each year 20 million women around the world risk their lives obtaining unsafe abortions. Approximately 80,000 women die from unsafe abortions annually.
Dr. Jerker Liljestrand of the World Health Organization said that of the 20 million unsafe abortions performed, 95 percent are carried out in developing countries, by untrained practitioners in unclean environments using unrefined methods.
Liljestrand, WHO’s chief of maternal and newborn health, said that some methods include pressing weights on a woman’s abdomen to expel the fetus, or prescribing special “potions.” “And there isn’t a backup necessary if complications arise. ... The poorer the woman, the more likely she’ll have to settle for a more dangerous abortion. ... If a woman is poor and desperate enough she will get a back street abortion or a botched abortion,” said Liljestrand.
Carla Abou-Zahr, WHO’s technical director of reproductive health, said that mechanical methods of abortion include, “very vigorous massages to the woman’s abdomen or applying heavy weights in an attempt to expel the fetus. ... Sometimes a stick or a needle is inserted into the cervix,” or “a liquid preparation such as soap, not always very effective, is sometimes introduced to provoke the abortion. This often introduces infection.”
The study stated that between 10 and 50 percent of all women who undergo unsafe abortions suffer complications, including severe infection, hemorrhaging and puncturing or tearing of the uterus. Complications also include long-term problems, such as pelvic pain or inflammatory disease, tubal blockage and secondary infertility.
The report said that up to 50 percent of developing countries’ hospital budgets go towards treating the complications of unsafe abortions.
“Contrary to common belief, the legalization of abortion does not necessarily increase abortion rates,” the study declared. “The Netherlands, for example, has a non-restrictive abortion law, widely accessible contraceptives and free abortion services, and the lowest abortion rate in the world.”
The WHO report urged international organizations and governments to work towards universal access to family planning, the availability of safe abortions, and better post-abortion care.
Feminist News Stories on Abortion
Britain’s Secretary of State for Social Security Harriet Harman announced plans for new programs that will put an end to the idea of a male “breadwinner.” Harman said, “Key factors taken for granted in post-war society cannot be taken for granted in the 1990s,” said Harman. “Today, in most quarters at any rate, we have moved on. Our goal is employability for men and women.”
Chancellor Gordon Brown announced that around 250,000 mostly female partners of unemployed Jobseeker’s Allowance applicants, 95 percent of whom are male “breadwinners,” will be offered a chance to join welfare-to-work programs.
A pre-budget report by Martin Taylor, chief executive of Barclays Bank, said “The existing rules seem to be left over from the days when it was assumed that all men worked and their wives did not. Today, when 47 percent of employees are women, basic benefit policy on such a notion is, to say the least, inappropriate.”
3/20/1998 - Study Investigates Low Female MBA Enrollment
Catalyst, a non-profit organization that works to advance women in business, announced a new study aimed at understanding why women constitute only a little more than a quarter of all MBA students nationwide. Researchers will investigate the strengths and weaknesses of MBA programs for women and will examine the support that female MBA students receive.
Women make up only 29 percent of MBA students. However, women-owned businesses that employ over 15 million people have increased by 18 percent in the last five years.
Catalyst President Sheila Wellington said, “The enrollment of women at the nation’s leading business schools has stagnated, even while enrollments of women in other professional programs, like law and medicine, mirror the nation’s economic trend toward having nearly equal representation of men and women.”
Carol Hollenshead, Director of the Center for the Education of Women, stated “A great deal of progress has been made in understanding how to attract women to science and engineering careers and we hope to replicate that trend for women and business.”
The University of Michigan Business School and The Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan will also participate in the study.
The Maryland House of Delegates voted to increase the number of poor teenage women who qualify for state-funded abortions yesterday. The new law will offer health and insurance benefits to 60,000 more children and pregnant women whose earnings are moderate, but not low enough to qualify for Medicaid.
Although federal law prohibits the use of government dollars for abortions except in the case of rape, incest or to protect the mother’s life, Maryland law allows state-funded abortions to protect the mental health of the mother and in cases of possible genetic defects of the fetus. State officials estimate that the new law will provide state-funded abortions for 60 additional teenage women a year.
Betsy Cavendish, legal director for the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, said “By and large Maryland is one of the leading states in beating back anti-choice legislation.”
This year, the Maryland Senate voted against a ban on D&X abortions, citing interpretations of such a law that might prohibit all abortions. The Virginia General Assembly and 22 other states have passed D&X bans.
Feminist News Stories on Abortion