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10/27/1997 - Women May Be Allowed to Climb Omine

After almost 700 years of forbidding women from climbing the sacred mountain Omine in western Japan, the Japanese temple Ominesanji is considering permitting women climbers.

The temple sits on top of the 5,640-foot Omine Mountain, one of only two Japanese shrines that forbid women. Ominesanji is a temple for male followers of the Shugendo sect, a mix of Shintoism, Buddhism and Taoism. Women can neither enter the temple nor climb more than halfway up the mountain, where their trails stop. All other trails read "No Women Allowed."

Until the 19th century, Japan banned women from sacred mountains, saying females were unclean and an insult to mountain goddesses. The ban on Omine is not legal, but is observed by tradition. In response to many requests and the increasing awareness of women's rights in Japan, Ominesanji is considering celebrating its 700th birthday in 2000 by lifting the ban.


10/24/1997 - Houston Citizens to Vote on Affirmative Action Ban

On Nov. 4, Houston voters will decide whether or not to abolish the city's affirmative action plan. California citizens voted to ban state affirmation action programs last year.

An Oct. 2 poll said that only 29% of voters want to ban the program. The 13-year-old program states that 20% of city contracts must go to women and people of color. Last year, only 21% of city contracts went to women- or minority-owned businesses, despite the fact that African-Americans and Hispanics make up 39% of Houston's population. Lenoria Walker, who runs the program, said "Everybody's eyes are on Houston. If Houston is overtaken, then that will be a trend for the rest of the state to do the same thing."


10/24/1997 - Congress Considers Employment Non-Discrimination Act

Congressional hearings began yesterday for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would outlaw work place discrimination based on sexual orientation. The bill was narrowly defeated in the Senate last year by a vote of 50-49.

Gays and lesbians who were fired because of their orientation described the hostile work environments and blatant discrimination they faced. An assembly-line worker was called "fag" and "queer" at work for over a decade. A woman who played soccer for the Gay Games on her vacation was fired upon her return. A restaurant worker who had been recommended for a management position at a new restaurant was abruptly fired when a co-worker reveal the man's sexual orientation to their boss. When he sought legal recourse, he was told that there were no laws protecting gays and lesbians from job discrimination in his state.

Executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, Elizabeth Birch, said "Today, it is perfectly legal under federal law to fire a person simply because he or she is gay, lesbian, or bisexual." ENDA seeks to prevent gays and lesbians from unfair job treatment simply because of their orientation.


10/24/1997 - New Yorker Exec Sues for Pregnancy Discrimination

Diane Silberstein, a former publisher and senior vice president for the New Yorker magazine filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that her boss fired her because she was pregnant.

Silberstein says that New Yorker president Thomas Florio actively discouraged her from taking other job offers while she was publisher. When he found out she was pregnant, he cut her salary almost in half, saying that she could either accept it or take a "severance package" instead. Silberstein also claims that Florio told her on many different occasions that she would be unable to handle her work and home duties. Silberstein took the pay cut and Florio again discouraged her from taking other job offers, Silberstein said. Several weeks later, she learned through an advertising industry newsletter that she had been fired.

Florio and the New Yorker deny the charges and claim that the mostly woman-run magazine has no history of discriminating against pregnant women and mothers.


10/24/1997 - Air Traffic Controllers Fight Back Against Sexual Harassment

Female air traffic controllers testified about pervasive sexual harassment in the work place for the House Transportation Committee yesterday.

Several female victims and both male and female witnesses complained that the male-dominated air traffic controller field was hostile to women. They said that women who complained of the constant sexual remarks and fondling were ignored or suffered damage to their careers. One woman said she'd been consistently harassed since 1982. Another woman said she'd received several sexual letters at work from a "secret admirer." A male supervisor witnessed another male supervisor unbutton a female controller's shirt, saying "Let's see what's in there." He told her that her career would be over if she reacted.

The new head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Jane Garvey, reiterated the FAA's commitment to eradicate sexual harassment. Citing FAA inaction and years of broken promises, Michael McNally, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said "To say we do not trust the FAA on this issue is an understatement. Several of the employees are filing a class-action lawsuit against the FAA that claims sexual harassment and discrimination is rampant in FAA facilities."


10/24/1997 - Sex Ed Does Not Encourage Promiscuity, Study Says

In a comprehensive study released Wednesday, the U.N. reaffirmed that sex education does not lead to higher rates of sexual activity among teens, and encourages safer sex practices among those already sexually active.

The study reviewed 68 studies worldwide on the impact of AIDS and sex education on young people. UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said "Failing to provide appropriate and timely information to young people for fear of encouraging sexual activity is not a viable option." He praised several countries for their comprehensive sex education starting at a young age. Piot said the study will help destroy the myth perpetuated by religious conservatives that sex education will lead to higher rates of sex and STDs. The study shows that students who receive sex education tend to wait until they are older to have sex and have fewer sexual partners, unplanned pregnancies and STDs.

The U.N. still faces obstacles to making sex education global. For example, in many Catholic countries, the Pope has urged parents to remove their children from any programs that teach about condoms, saying it is "dangerous" and "immoral."


10/24/1997 - Pope Condemns Ordination of Women

The Pope announced yesterday that relations between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church had suffered a setback because of the Protestant church's 1992 decision to ordain women.

The Pope explained his view that Jesus desired only male priests and denies that male-only ordination discriminates against women. The Pope also stated that he wants to improve relations between Protestants and Catholics, but that the existence of female Anglican priests impedes his efforts. He also reiterated his condemnation of abortion and euthanasia, saying that "repentance and conversion are required" as the year 2000 approaches.


10/24/1997 - Military Will Take Guns Away From Abusers

The military announced Wednesday that they will take personal and military arms away from any military employee who has been convicted of domestic violence.

The ruling came a year after the Domestic Violence Gun Ban was passed, which forbids guns to anyone convicted of domestic violence. Conservative politicians such as Newt Gingrich still oppose the bill because it can take arms away from men who use them on the job, such as police and military members. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who sponsored the bill, said "If the Pentagon were as slow in protecting our nation as it is in protecting battered women and children on its own bases, then we are in a hell of a lot of trouble."

The Pentagon said its 1.4 million active-duty troops would receive questionnaires asking if they'd even been convicted of domestic violence. If they lie, they could be convicted of a felony. The Defense Department said that the ruling wouldn't affect troops' ability to use large-scale weapons, warplanes and tanks.


10/24/1997 - L.A. Sweatshop Workers Win $2 Million Settlement

A group of Thai and Latino immigrant sweatshop workers who were freed from slave labor in 1995 by a federal raid, won a lawsuit against the garment industry yesterday.

B.U.M. International, L.F. Sportswear, Mervyn's and Montgomery Ward agreed to pay 150 workers $2 million, and Hub Distributors/Miller's Outpost will pay an undisclosed amount. As part of the agreement, the companies do not have to admit they had any knowledge of the working conditions or the existence of sweatshops. The settlement will be divided between workers according to how much time each spent working in the sweatshop.

"This is a victory not only for these workers but for all workers who suffer in sweatshops. And it sends the garment industry a message," said Julie Su, a lawyer with the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, who represented the workers.

The sweatshop workers had been forced to work up to 20 hours a day for less than $1 an hour, and were barricaded inside a compound with high walls and barbed wire. Some workers had been there for several years. The Thai workers have already received $1 million in back pay, most of which was seized from the sweatshop during the raid. The Thais, who were illegal immigrants, were also allowed to get work permits and now work at regular factories.


10/23/1997 - Activist Mother Runs for Argentinian Gov't

Graciela Fernandez Meijide, a 66-year-old mother whose son was kidnapped by death squads in 1976, has announced that she will run for president of Argentina in 1999 if she wins Sunday's congressional elections for the Alliance party.

Meijide has been a member of the Senate since 1995, and says her son's disappearance prompted her to enter politics. She says if she is elected, she will support the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, a group that searches for children who were orphaned by the death squads and given to military parents. She would be running against Buenos Aires' Hilda Duhalde, the governor's wife who is often compared to Eva Peron. Meijide said "Evita tried to build a welfare state and Mrs. Duhalde thinks she can milk that image by giving out eggs and flour to the poor. She should attack the roots of poverty." She said politicians need to address government corruption and improve the justice system.

Argentina's current president, Carlos Menem, says that Meijide is "only fit to be a housewife." Mrs. Duhalde, who said Meijide "acts like a man," only entered the congressional race because her husband forced her to, and claims she'd rather be at home. Meijide has criticized Menem for pardoning officials who were responsible for the disappearance of over 9,000 political leftists and dissidents during a military crackdown. She said that she would investigate corruption in Menem's administration if elected. "I'm not seeking vengeance. I'm translating the pain into a fight for justice and better democracy," Meijide said.


10/23/1997 - Gay NJ Couple Allowed to Adopt

A gay couple was granted joint adoption for their foster child yesterday, a decree believed to be only the second in New Jersey.

Jon Holden and Michael Gallucio have cared for two-year-old Adam since he was three months old. He was born to a cocaine addict who was HIV-positive. Gallucio and Holden have been together for 15 years. Gallucio works outside the home and Holden takes care of Adam, who gets drug therapy to prevent him from developing AIDS. They are also foster parents to a baby girl, but cannot adopt her until parental rights end. Thousands of babies in New Jersey born with problems like Adam's are currently awaiting adoption or foster care.

"This is a pure example of New Jersey recognizing us as families," said New Jersey Lesbian & Gay Coalition president Gina Reiss. The men have also filed a class-action lawsuit to overturn a law that prohibits adoption by unmarried couples. Michael Adams, an attorney for the ACLU, said the law violates the Constitution's equal protection clause, especially since homosexual couples cannot legally get married.


10/23/1997 - Pro-Choice Project Launches Nationwide Ad Campaign

Operation Rescue targeted schools with graphic anti-abortion campaigns in U.S. cities last year. The Pro-Choice Public Education Project (PEP) is running television ads in 370 cities to counter Operation Rescue's message. The ads will be broadcast on MTV.

The one-year-old organization is comprised of nearly 50 pro-choice groups. PEP seeks to correct the misinformation in "abstinence-only" sex education, which teaches medically unsound "facts" such as that sex outside of marriage will likely cause permanent mental and physical damage. This campaign was signed into law last year, with $50 million going to states to teach abstinence programs in schools. Recent studies have shown that sex education and availability of contraception has no impact on the number of teens having sex. In fact, the more knowledgable a teen is, the more likely s/he is to use protection such as condoms. Abstinence-only education does not include discussions on birth control or STDs, even though the U.S. teen prgnancy rate is eight times higher than in comparable European countries. AIDS is the sixth leading cause of death for 15 to 24- year-olds, who make up half of all new AIDS cases.

The MTV ads, which are expected to reach over 5 million households, will include a 1-800 number for people to call for information, and a Web site address to visit. PEP's campaign goals are to provide health and sex education and create public discourse. They stress "the importance of responsible and informed sex decision making, the urgency of practicing safe sex, the need for universal access to contraception and sex education, and the crucial understanding that prevention is the first choice."

The Feminist Majority Foundation is part of the steering committee for the Pro-Choice Public Education Project.


10/23/1997 - Battered Woman Murdered by Ex-Boyfriend

Two young boys who saw their mother shot to death while she waited with them at a bus stop on Tuesday identified their father as the killer, telling police on Tuesday that "Daddy shot Mommy." The tragedy, which occured during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, highlighted the problem of protecting battered women from their abusers.

The victim, 23-year-old Annie Glenn, had spent the night with her children at House of Hope, a shelter for homeless families, because she feared her ex-boyfriend Richard Kenney. Glenn and two other women had restraining orders against Kenney, who also had several outstanding warrants on drug and theft charges. In 1994, Glenn told police that she was afraid of Kenney because he told her every time she wanted to leave that he was going to kill her. Kenney, who was arrested shortly after the murder, was the father of the youngest two of her three children.

Tuesday night, a candlelight vigil for victims of domestic violence was held and the names of 20 women who have been killed by domestic violence in Massachusetts this year, including Glenn, were read aloud.


10/22/1997 - Combat Jobs Not Being Filled by Women

A study commissioned by the Defense Department says that despite a 1993 Congressional order that opened up thousands of combat-related military jobs, very few women hold these positions.

Although women are now eligible to be assigned to any non-infantry positions for which they are qualified, there are only 814 women in the 47,844 jobs that became available to them a few years ago. While the report said the low numbers of women in the military overall (14%) may have contributed to the small percentage, it also found "a significant reluctance on the part of some commanders to abide by the law and allow women to fill the vacancies." For example, to avert the law, some Army commanders require infantry experience for certain jobs, even though women are legally barred from infantry units.

The study found that "readiness, cohesion and morale" was scarcely affected by the integration of women into combat jobs. In a survey, only two out of 934 service members said that gender influenced a unit's ability to do its job. About 80% of women in the military and more than half of all enlisted men support women working in combat positions on a volunteer basis. The only gender-related problems found by the study was resentment of pregnant women who couldn't pull their weight in a troop or sexual relationships among unit members.

The Navy has done the best job of integrating women; it requires certain numbers of senior women officers on integrated ships. Women leaders were credited with aiding overall discipline, helping with transitional issues, and providing women with a positive behavioral role model.

The Defense Department is also in the middle of a yearlong study on whether or not the military has honestly given women equal opportunities.


10/22/1997 - Army Panel Cites Persistent Gender Problems

A new report by the chairwoman of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services states that sexual harassment, gender discrimination and sexual assaults still plague Army bases.

In August 1997, author Judith Youngman visited the Army's largest training base in Fort Jackson, S.C., where she interviewed 157 women and men. They told her that sexual relationships between male drill instructors and female recruits still occur, that women's abilities are degraded by some male drill instructors, and that female trainers believe they are excluded from opportunities for promotions. Interviewees believed "harassing and discriminating behaviors [were] not addressed in many companies," and said the Army should "get rid of the bad apples." Both men and women said that sexist attitudes were learned during training, especially by male training officers. Many drill sergeants were accused of being "openly prejudicial and discriminatory."

The advisory committee will release a separate study today on military bases in Asia. The report, based on a more comprehensive study by committee members, states that the practice of male commanders denying women leadership positions and assigning them desk duty is "widespread." At some bases, women were "openly demeaned and their roles in the military ridiculed."

Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said the report confirms the Army's own reports on sexual harassment. "The question is when is the Army going to act to swiftly and aggressively reverse this trend?" Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Sara E. Lister said "The Army is concerned that there are people who feel this way, but we are working on solving the problems raised."


10/22/1997 - U. Penn Women's Athletics Short-Changed

In a report to the federal government, the University of Pennsylvania revealed that men's athletic programs receive more than twice the funds of women's athletics.

Although this is a violation of Title IX, which states that men's and women's athletic programs must receive virtually equal funding, the university said they were making progress. Title IX requires athletic departments to show that they are making consistent efforts each year to follow the law.

A 1995 law requires universities to publicize information about their athletic programs and file reports with the government and the NCAA. The report said total operating expenses for men's athletic teams was $925,717 in 1996-97, while women's teams received only $433,989 -- 32% of the money spent on athletics overall. Three-quarters of the total recruiting budget last year was used for men's athletics. The school is 51.5% male, but women make up 37% of the university's varsity athletes, even though they have almost as many varsity teams and full-time coaches as men. Men's part-time coaches outnumbered women's, a figure mostly explained by the presence of 16 assistant coaches for the football team.

Next semester, the university will survey female students to determine their "needs and interests" and what changes they want made to Penn's athletic programs.


10/22/1997 - Women Journalists Recognized

The International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) honored three women with Courage in Journalism awards last night. The speakers and presenters included noted women journalists such as Katherine Graham, Judy Woodruff, Cynthia Tucker and Cokie Roberts.

The $2,000 awards went to women who have put their lives at risk for news -- Bina Bektiati, a freelance journalist in Indonesia, Corrine Dufka, Reuters chief photographer in East Africas, and Maribel Gutierrez Moreno, founder of a weekly Mexican newspaper.

"I feel fortunate to have been able to take pictures that have made people stop and feel for others, not very different from you or me, who are trying to live their lives and maintain a sense of hope with the devastating context of war," said Dufka. Besides Africa, she has also covered the former Yugoslavia and human rights abuses in El Salvador.

Gutierrez, who has been subjected to government intimidation because of her work on opposition peasant groups, said "This is part of the political violence we live under in our state."

Bektiati, who is the first winner from Indonesia to actually attend the ceremony despite fears of persecution, said "I live in a country that has more than 100 newspapers and magazines, and where the press jargon 'free and responsible' really means 'hardly free.'" She helped organize the country's first independent journalist's union, and fights governmental control of the media.

IWMF also honored the late Nancy Woodhull, one of the founding editors of USA Today. IWMF co-chairwoman Maureen Bunyan said "Nancy was a tireless advocate of quality and equality in journalism. She dedicated herself to helping women and men of all backgrounds realize a career in the media."


10/22/1997 - Lesbian Coach Sues School for Illegal Firing

Wendy Weaver, a coach and teacher at Spanish Fork High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, is suing Nebo School District for firing her because she is a lesbian.

Weaver was fired as coach last summer after she divorced her husband and moved in with another woman. The principal told her that she would also lose her job teaching physical education and psychology if she so much as mentioned her "homosexual orientation or lifestyle." Although she does not want to become a gay rights activist, Weaver says this gag order infringes on her First Amendment rights.

Weaver led the girls' volleyball team to 4 state championships in her 18 years there. Helen Hjorth, a former student and current varsity volleyball player at Brigham Young University, said Weaver was "the best thing that ever happened to Spanish Fork athletics. There was no reason to fire her except for her personal lifestyle."


10/22/1997 - India Skeptical of Plan to Help Girls

The government in India has planned an aid package for over two million girls in the country's poorest families. They say they will give families who make less than $314 a year $14 when a girl is born, and $14-$28 a year for their schooling.

The media suggested that selfish government employees will keep the money from illiterate women, and that more reforms are needed to ensure gender equality. The Indian Express said the financial aid would be helpful only if it was part of a package of "social welfare measures, local education and proper health care." The Express also said that girls, "even if they survive nine months in their mother's wombs, make a shaky entrance into the world, sometimes only to be nudged into oblivion by being denied proper food and medicine."

A recent U.N. report said that around 4,000 women are murdered each year in India because their dowries are not large enough, and that females are often killed at birth. It further stated that women suffer from discriminatory laws and social customs. For example, marital rape is not a crime and the preference for sons in a family is widespread and deep-rooted in Indian culture.


10/22/1997 - HHS Gives $1 Million For Girls' Programs

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala announced last week that $1 million would be awarded to four community-based projects and one national campaign to help young girls. "With these grants, communities can work together to help young girls stay healthy, stay active, and make the most of their lives," she said.

The community programs work to prevent teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and to build self-esteem among girls age 9-14. Girl Power!, a national public health campaign, also educates girls about eating disorders and helps them increase their confidence in athletics, school and other activities.

Studies show that girls are more likely to have problems than boys during adolescence, expressed in higher rates of depression, eating disorders, poor performance in school and sports, and risky behaviors such as drug abuse and unsafe sex.


10/21/1997 - Catholic Hospitals Restrict Women's Health Services

In an alarming trend that is increasing each year, secular hospitals are merging with Catholic hospitals and cutting off all reproductive health services.

The mergers, which are often done to keep financially-struggling hospitals open, are becoming more and more common. For example, in New York City, a Catholic health maintenance organization purchased a statewide Medicaid-only HMO. Despite the fact that their clientele is mostly young women in poverty, the combined organization will no longer provide AIDS prevention counseling, birth control, abortions or sterilizations, nor even provide referrals for these services.

"It's health care being ruled by something other than what's best for the patient," said Dr. Dean Bloch, an ob/gyn at Northern Dutchess Hospital in upstate New York. Northern Dutchess and Kingston Medical Center are merged with a Roman Catholic hospital, which dictated that they stop offering services such as contraceptive counseling, abortions and sterilizations.

In communities where mergers are being discussed, public outcry over the suspension of reproductive services that the Catholic hospital will require can sometimes prevent the mergers. A community activist against a merger in Dutchess County said "We're not against an affiliation. We know hospitals are facing tough times. But there are many models where the nonsectarian hospital doesn't have to follow the dictates of the church. We want them to find a way to do both. We don't want services to be lost."

Even some church leaders do not agree with Catholic hospitals forcing secular hospitals to follow Catholic doctrine. "There are many members of the clergy, even some who are opposed to abortion, who are very concerned that the ethical and religious directives of one church are being imposed on people of other religions," said Rev. Tom Davis of the United Church of Christ. "These mergers are of grave concern because even hospitals that do not agree to become Catholic hospitals agree in these deals to abide by Catholic rules."

JoAnn Smith, executive director of Family Planning Advocates of New York State, said "This is not a classic pro-life, pro-choice abortion debate. We're talking about everyday reproductive care, like contraception. We're talking about adequate HIV and AIDS counseling. We're talking about the morning-after pill for rape victims. Deals like these undermine the basic availability of quality, convenient health care for women."


10/21/1997 - Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Louisiana Parental Consent Laws

Yesterday, the Supreme Court refused to reinstate a Louisiana law that requires minors to get parental consent for abortions, agreeing that it caused "undue interference" with young women's abortion rights.

Although the Supreme Court has upheld parental-consent laws in other states, the Louisiana law was unique because it did not explicitly state that judges had to give permission for girls to have abortions if they did not tell their parents. The law, before it was barred by a federal trial judge, only said that judges "may" authorize abortions. In every other state, the law says a judge "shall" grant permission for abortions.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals prevented the law from being enforced in 1995, and said the Louisiana law "states that juvenile court judges have the discretion to deny an abortion to a minor even though the minor demonstrates that she is mature ... or that the abortion would be in her best interest." They also said that anonymity laws were violated if the judge contacted the parents of girls who want abortions.


10/21/1997 - Journalist Nancy Dickerson Dies

Noted radio and television correspondent and independent producer Nancy Dickerson died at age 70 on Saturday.

She broke through barriers in the 1950s to be among the first women to cover politics and world affairs. She rejected a job as "women's editor" at the old Washington Daily News because "writing shopping and food columns...seemed outlandish to try and change the world." In 1954, CBS News hired her to produce political radio shows. In 1960, she was made CBS' first female correspondent. She traveled around the world with presidents and covered major events such as the 1963 March on Washington. She was also a past vice president of the Washington Press Club.

After 7 years at NBC, in 1971 Dickerson became a syndicated independent broadcaster and producer. She was the first woman to have a daily news program on network television, and produced documentaries on topics such as Watergate, the status of women in the Arab countries and the women's movement in the U.S.


10/21/1997 - Vigil Draws Attention to Domestic Violence

On Saturday, October 18, over 1000 women and men from all over the country and the world participated in the National March To End The Silence in Washington DC. Organized by the National Silent Witness Initiative, women and men from all fifty states and seven countries marched on Washington in memory of all the women and children who have died at the hands of their husbands,fathers and partners.

Carrying the red silhouettes bearing the names and stories of their daughters, mothers, sisters and friends, the marchers paid a silent, moving tribute to the murdered victims of domestic abuse. Dealing with the reality of their personal loss and experiences, the participants walked in a quiet state of reflection, but as the procession reached the Capitol Building, the voices of hope and determination emerged as the demonstrators demanded that attention be given to the epidemic of domestic violence and the many lives it continues to endanger.

The voices only got louder as survivors, speakers and musicians offered support and solutions to this awesome dilemma. Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minn) applauded the efforts of the Silent Witness Initiative, which originated in his home state of Minnesota, to heighten the awareness of domestic abuse. "This is too powerful. This is too real. This is too important," he said, advertising the importance of this issue to the policymaking community.

As the rally concluded, the 1500 silhouettes representing the average number of women and children killed by domestic violence each year, were lead to the Reflecting Pool and lined up to tell their stories to the tourists and passerbys. Prayers and personal stories closed out the vigil as women and men from all walks of life asked for an end to the crisis of domestic abuse.


10/21/1997 - Women Leaders Decreasing Worldwide

Last month, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright hosted a party for foreign ministers with only one requirement -- they must be women.

At the party of eight women, with two women unable to attend, the foreign ministers discussed the political progress of women. Worldwide, there are only four female heads of government, 10 U.N. ambassadors and 17 speakers of parliament. The number of women in parliament has declined from a high of 15% in 1988 to less than 12% today. This is an unexpected result of more countries turning from socialism and communism to democracy. As socialist ideals of gender equality and women's social programs have been erased in many countries, women have found it difficult to get the funding necessary to run for government office, and "traditional patriarchal systems resurfaced," according to the Los Angeles Times. The biggest setbacks for women have been in Eastern Europe and former Soviet states, where women's representation has declined from highs of 25-35% to about 5%.

Some areas are improving, however. When India ruled in 1993 that at least one-third of all local council seats must go to women, over a million rural women entered government offices in the first election. Six other countries have instituted gender quotas, and dozens of political parties worldwide now require that 50% of their candidates be women.

The U.S. is ranked 39th out of 173 countries with national legislatures in terms of women's political representation. Only nine senators are women, and 11.7% of House seats are made up of women. Women make up only 21.5% of state legislatures and only three governors are women.