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Filtering by Tag: international feminism

Send a message to a victim of sexual assault: Strauss-Kahn's victim


The following was sent to me by one of NOW's founders, Sonia Pressman Fuentes, who is being honored at the national NOW conference in June. 

About the victim: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/imf_head_assault
"Her life has now been turned upside down. She can't go home. She can't go back to work. She has no idea what her future will be, what she will be able to do to support herself and her daughter. This has been nothing short of a cataclysmic event in her life," Shapiro said. He said she "feels alone in the world."

I cannot imagine what she is going through.  A sexual assault is horrific enough - to compound  that with being an: immigrant, single mom, poor, and woman of color brings additional layers to that trauma.  I want her to know that we are there with her in spirit, as she has to go over the traumatic details yet once again in front of the grand jury - another room full of strangers who are judging HER innocence.  

I am going to email/call her lawyer's publicist with a copy of Terry O'Neill's post about it on The Huffington Post, and a personal note from me.  If you would like to send her a message, please comment on this post with a note, or email us at youngfeminists at gmail.com.  If you like, please include your name and location, so we can show her there are people from all over the world who care about her.  We are compiling the messages and sending them to the publicist.   Thank you.

In Solidarity,
N. Jerin Arifa
National NOW Board of Directors
National NOW Young Feminist Task Force, Chair
NOW – NYS Young Feminist Task Force, Chair
National Organization for Women (NOW)

Please find below the email Sonia sent to the publicist of the lawyer representing the maid, telling her she is not alone.

Hi Lois:

We talked a few minutes ago while you were trying to eat.

I'm a retired attorney, a public speaker, author, and feminist and community activist.  On June 25, at NOW's annual conference in Tampa, FL, I'll be given an award for being a co-founder of NOW and for my groundbreaking work at the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity  Commission).

I just read an article where Jeffrey Shapiro stated that the maid who was allegedly attacked by Strauss-Kahn feels alone in the world.  Can you get a message to her that she is not alone in the world?  America's women and the world's women support her.  NOW supports her.

I've just suggested that at NOW's conference her case be discussed.

Please let me know how we can help.


OK to sexually harass women; just don't allow them to cover themselves up


Some of the same people who asked for the burqa ban (http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2011/04/frances_burqa_b) -- sometimes claiming they cared about women's rights -- are tolerant of the following: "How many senior male French politicians aren't either a groper, a cheater, a charmer or a serial seducer? And it goes right to the top of the political class.  France is still a kind of monarchy that kept the aristocratic morals of the 18th century. The lord of the manor has a right to the women; the king has his mistresses."

N. Jerin Arifa
National NOW Board of Directors
National NOW Young Feminist Task Force, Chair
NOW – NYS Young Feminist Task Force, Chair
National Organization for Women (NOW)

France questions itself over Dominique Strauss-Kahn's 'open secret'
Media taboo shielding political elite had kept IMF chief's record in realms of gossip until the alleged sex assault in New York
French newspapers after sex assault charges were levelled against presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Photograph: Caroline Blumberg/EPA
Less than three weeks ago, Dominique Strauss-Kahn sat down in a Paris restaurant for an off-the-record lunch with two journalists from the daily Libération. The IMF chief outlined the three biggest personal hurdles in his relentless campaign to become president of France: "Money, women and being a Jew."
He started with women. "Yes I like women, so what?" he asked. "For years, there's been talk of photos of a giant orgy, but I've never seen them come out," he added, challenging his opponents to produce long-rumoured pictures of a night at a posh swingers' club dating back decades. He said he had warned President Nicolas Sarkozy (while they stood side by side at the urinals of the gents during a recent international summit) to stop smearing him over his private life. Strauss-Kahn then volunteered to the journalists a hypothetical example of something that could bring him down: "A woman raped in a parking lot who is promised half a million euros to make up her story."
Before Strauss-Kahn's opponents began throwing what one socialist described as "stink bombs" at him, he was keen to present himself as the victim of a potentially ruthless campaign.
Everyone in French political and media circles knew Strauss-Kahn's achilles heel was his attitude to women. Even his closest political allies admitted he was an inveterate seducer, an unashamed libertine. But what makes the scandal new and unprecedented in a presidential race is the crossing of the line to sexual violence, attempted rape and brutal assault.
Strauss-Kahn denies the charges, and his allies call him a seducer without the "profile of a rapist". But if, as the extreme-right Marine Le Pen affirms, all of Paris had long been abuzz with talk of his "rather pathological relationship" with women, why wasn't Strauss-Kahn pulled up on it before in France? He had already been chastised by the IMF over one affair with a junior in 2008.
It raises the uncomfortable question in the French media and politics of two parallel worlds: what is printed, and what is behind it, gossip, and what must officially remain "unsaid".
Consensual extramarital sex is a non-story in France, part of the right to a private life protected by fearsome libel and privacy laws. Having a mistress, philandering, even routinely propositioning journalists have been brushed aside for countless political figures. "How many senior male French politicians aren't either a groper, a cheater, a charmer or a serial seducer? And it goes right to the top of the political class," sighed one news editor. "France is still a kind of monarchy that kept the aristocratic morals of the 18th century. The lord of the manor has a right to the women; the king has his mistresses." If more allegations against Strauss-Kahn come to light and lead to criminal charges, it will call into question a taboo in France about speaking out.
Tristane Banon, the novelist and journalist is, according to her lawyer, preparing to go to police alleging Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted her in 2002. Her mother, Anne Mansouret, a senior Socialist figure, said that she advised her daughter not to file a lawsuit at the time because Strauss-Kahn was a politician with a bright future, as well as a friend of the family. But she said that even the fact that her daughter later spoke out publicly about the attack on TV had left her "traumatised" by the subsequent "harassment" in her professional life over having dared to speak out.
Her mother suggested there was a kind of "invisible barrier" put up on her work projects, as if media bosses and publishers feared the consequences of "what she could reveal". Strauss-Kahn's spokesman has previously denied the claim, and said Banon had invented the allegation to generate publicity for herself.
The journalists, Christophe Deloire and Christophe Dubois, broke a taboo in their 2006 book, Sexus Politicus, about politicians' sexual behaviour. They wrote of Strauss-Kahn's tendency to "seduction to the point of obsession", mentioning, but not naming, female journalists who had been irritated by his gestures towards them. They also referred to one senior civil servant who didn't take up his offer to "come up to his office to relax".
It seemed striking that when Strauss-Kahn left for the IMF in Washington in 2007, with many politicians privately wondering how he would cope in a puritan US which frowns upon sexual advances, only one journalist raised the issue. Brussels correspondent for Libération, Jean Quatremer, wrote on his blog: "Strauss-Kahn's only real problem is his relationship to women. Too heavy … it borderlines harassment." Strauss-Kahn's communications team asked him to take the blog down. Quatremer explained to Le Parisien that he had refused, saying if they thought it was libellous, they could sue. They did not.
In 2008, the French press began to more openly touch on the issue of Strauss-Kahn and women after the IMF investigated his affair with a junior colleague, the Hungarian economist Piroska Nagy. He was cleared of abusing his position but was forced to apologise. Nagy said she thought he had a "problem" which affected his ability to work with women. Others in France spoke out. The Socialist party MP Aurelie Filipetti recalled a "very heavy, very pressing" come-on to her by Strauss-Kahn. She said that afterwards: "I made sure I never ended up alone with him in a closed space."
The humorist Stephane Guillon went furthest in 2009, satirising Strauss-Kahn's "obsession with females" on the equivalent of Radio 4's Today programme. Strauss-Kahn accused him on air of "nastiness" and Guillon – already under fire for lampooning several political figures – was sacked shortly afterwards.
In 2006, when Strauss-Kahn failed in his bid to become the Socialist presidential candidate, part of his problem was his publicly haughty and condescending attitude to the eventual winner, Ségolène Royal.
But five years later, as Strauss-Kahn's opinion poll ratings soared and he was tipped to become president, it was clear that a saga like the Nagy affair had no effect on the electorate's view. Sexual violence is another matter entirely. In a country where the leader's sexual habits are officially ignored, allegations of attempted rape have been a severe shock.

Wed, Sept 15: UN Presents: "Successes & Challenges of Women in Leadership Roles in Traditionally Male-Dominated Environments"


A Forum on the Empowerment of Women
Wednesday - 15 September 2010

1:00 – 2:45 PM

United Nations Church Center
777 UN Plaza, 8th Floor – Boss Room

(44th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues)
Hosted by -
The Spirituality, Values and Business Working Group of the NGO
Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns–NY
Convening Sponsor - Child Family Health International (CFHI)
Co-sponsors - International Center for Good Business (ICFGB), Institute of International Social Development (IISD), and Spiritual United Nations (SUN)

In July 2010, the annual high-level meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) concluded with Member States stressing the need for greater investment in women and girls and outlining concrete steps to advance gender equality and empower women. While this is the specific target of Millennium Development Goal #3, it is well recognized that the role of women will be important to the achievement of all eight goals and especially critical for achieving goals 1, 2, 4, and 5.

Throughout the world women are stepping up and assuming more leadership roles in NGOs. In many cases, it may be the first time a woman has served in this kind of a role. Whether these new roles for women are at high organizational, or grassroots levels, they come with their own challenges and opportunities.

Come share in the discussion with women who are succeeding in these new roles. Hear their successes and challenges. Learn about their strategies and share from your own experience. The panel members will speak briefly to introduce the topic and give some perspectives but this forum will rely on the participation of the audience. This not-for-women-only session invites men to join the group to hear perspectives that you may not be used to hearing and to open your mind to possible new ways of thinking.

Introduction and Welcome: Steven Schmidbauer,
M. Div., Executive Director

Child Family Health International (CFHI)

Moderator: Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury,
former Under-Secretary General and
High Representative of the UN (OHRLLS)

Panelists Include: Jessica Evert,
MD, Medical Director, Child Family Health International
Monika Mitchell,
Good Business International

Hema Pandey,
India Coordinator, Child Family Health International
UN Staff, Missions, NGOs, Corporate and Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs are invited. Those wishing to attend should send a registration request
no later than 12 Sept 2010 to: projectharmony@yahoo.com.
For more information contact: projectharmony@yahoo.com

The NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns-NY (CSVGC-NY)
is a Committee of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CONGO).

Banning the Veil, Loving the Face?


Ms. magazine Blog - www.msmagazine.com/blog
Catch up on what you missed, and check in throughout June to get our bloggers' latest takes on news and culture.


Banning the Veil, Loving the Face? On Tuesday July 13, a day before Bastille Day, the French assembly voted to ban the full-face veil in France. The vote fell in step with similar bans being considered or enacted in other EU countries, ...Read More


Global Roundup: Vatican, Argentina, Guatemala, Scotland VATICAN CITY: The Vatican has deemed the ordination of women priests a crime comparable to heresy and even sex abuse by priests. The Church still isn't doing too well on the latter front, as ...Read More

Nebraska Judge Blocks Abortion Screening Law A federal judge has blocked a new Nebraska law requiring elaborate mental health screenings and physical examinations for women seeking abortions, supposedly to ensure that they weren't coerced and ...Read More


Femicide May Be Grounds for Asylum Do you remember the core principle that emerged from the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women? Women's rights are human rights. Hillary Clinton gave her famous speech, we saw it on banners and ...Read More

Serial Killers and "Nappy-Headed Hos" Remember Don Imus? Remember how upset we were a few years back when the wretched "shock jock" and his pals took to the radio airwaves to dis the women of the Rutgers women's basketball team ...Read More


Is Lilith Fair Feminist? Sarah McLachlan's Not Sure After a decade of silence, Sarah McLachlan rallied another troupe to make a nationwide pilgrimage in the name of the goddess Lilith. Not old enough to drive a car the last time Lilith Fair ...Read More


What Do Latinas Really Think About Feminism? There are a lot of theories about how Latinas view feminism. We're pro-life, unless we're too American. Our men are full of machismo and make our decisions. We reject feminism based ...Read More


Hooray for Choice! 10 Birth Control Options Besides "the Pill" While "the pill"-which is celebrating its 50th birthday this year-has been an incredible boon for women who want a contraceptive, it's not for everyone. Don't forget there ...Read More

Feminist Campus »
Feminist Majority »

  We add new posts many times a day; come back soon and come back often! And we'd love to read your comments!

Bangladesh Development Star Does Shine for Women


Womens eNews
Covering Women's Issues -
Changing Women's Lives

Thursday, July 8, 2010
Bangladesh Development Star Does Shine for Women
By Amy Lieberman
WeNews correspondent
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Bangladesh promises to be a star this September when the U.N. reviews development goals. But despite a strong start on girls' education, many female-focused targets, including maternal mortality, are lagging far behind.
A literacy class for women and girls in Bangladesh.UNITED NATIONS (WOMENSENEWS)--A precocious, gender-sensitive civil society movement stirring in Bangladesh since the 1970s is expected to make the country a star among nations meeting here in September to re-affirm 15-year development pledges that face a deadline in 2015.
Bangladesh, the world's most densely-populated country faces the worst consequences of climate change, but is nonetheless on track to meet the majority of the eight Millennium Development Goals, usually called MDGs, laid out by the United Nations 10 years ago, said Abdul Momen, Bangladesh's envoy to the U.N.
Poverty reduction, for instance, is expected to be half of 1990 levels in five years' time. Child and infant mortality stand to decrease by the targeted rate of two-thirds.
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And as a result of the 2009 National Women Development Policy, the country expects to have women in 33 percent of its seats in Parliament by 2015, achieving one of the gender goals.
The present government, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has brought a new tide of stability and progress in gender equality, said Momen. But this stability stands on shaky ground. Nationwide demonstrations against Hasina's ruling Awami League party, led by opposition parties, turned violent yesterday, when at least 30 people were hurt after riot-police broke up the protests, according to media accounts. Protestors are calling for the May 2011 elections to be bumped up, citing autocratic leadership.
Even with these political tensions, Hasina has presided over her nation's significant successes. At the same time, Bangladesh's gender-focused goals still lag far behind.
The most glaring failure is associated with a U.N. goal calling for a reduction in the maternal death by two-thirds from the rate in 1990.

Maternal Deaths Still High

From 1990 to 2006, maternal deaths dropped by about 40 percent, decreasing from 574 deaths per 100,000 live births to 351. Progress has stalled, though, at a point far above the 2015 target figure of 144.
An estimated 14 percent of maternal deaths in Bangladesh are caused by violence against women, while 12,000 to 15,000 women die annually from hemorrhaging and other health complications, according to a U.N. Development Program 2008 report.
"In terms of health MDGs and maternal health we are in very bad shape," Momen said in an interview in his New York office. "We have this resource gap that decreases our capacity dramatically."
It will take an estimated $1.85 billion in additional foreign assistance allotted for maternal health specifically to decrease the maternal mortality to its target ration in Bangladesh, according to the United Nations Development Program.
Bangladesh allotted nearly $1.17 billion for "health and family welfare," encompassing all health, not just women's and maternal health, in its 2010-2011 fiscal budget. Though that's a 16 percent funding increase from last year, it is still only 6 percent of the total budget, said Monisha Biswas, Bangladesh's advocacy expert of the U.N. Millennium Campaign.
Some of the extra money will go toward recruitment of health care professionals, as well as an increase in medical clinics.
The Dhaka-based Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, said to be the largest nongovernmental group in the world, supplements that health funding by an additional approximate $40 million annually, or around 8 to 10 percent of its budget.
The group's engrained social programs, as well as strong leadership and networks in Bangladesh, have been widely credited with bringing sweeping social changes to the country.

Financing Alone Not Enough

But financing alone won't curb pregnancy-related deaths and injuries, said Sheepa Hafiza, director of the gender, justice, diversity and advocacy branch for Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, widely known as BRAC.
"Maternal mortality will not reduce until gender disparities within the households are addressed," Hafiza said. "You have health projects where young mothers are targeted, but the elder decision makers in the family are not involved. That woman may not be able to decide whether she gets to see a doctor or not."
That kind of cultural resistance represents a huge disappointment for BRAC and the numerous civil-society groups that run through Bangladesh like the 220 rivers flowing through its low-lying land mass.
These groups developed enormous prominence following Bangladesh's 1971 independence from Pakistan, when foreign donors distrusted governmental corruption and funneled money instead to BRAC and other organizations, which amassed far more money than was controlled by the government.
BRAC offers income generating projects, microfinance opportunities and emergency humanitarian relief, among other programs, to nearly 70 percent of Bangladeshis. Microfinance services are at the heart of its holistic approach, designed to enable long-term business growth in rural areas.
BRAC recognized women's prominence in sustainable development at its 1972 inception.
The organization now employs close to 120,000 Bangladeshis, 60 percent of whom are women, Hafiza says. More than 98 percent of its 7.37 million microfinance borrowers and savers are women and female household heads.

Progress on Girls' Education

The government has also made some headway in girls' education. In 2001 Bangladesh started offering girls access to free public education, nine years ahead of providing it to boys. As a result of this staggered approach the country eliminated gender inequities in primary education in 2005, 10 years ahead of schedule.
The policy led to female-dominated classrooms as of 2007, but up to 85 percent of girls still drop out of school between the ages of 9 to 13.
Though the nation, as a result of BRAC and government initiatives, could still reach its goal of an even boy-girl admittance ratio in secondary schools, it won't come close to its target of equal representation in higher education by 2015.
The high dropout rate will also continue to counteract the goal of achieving equal representation of women in the non-agricultural work force, Momen says. If women haven't graduated from universities, they aren't able to fill certain positions.
"Eve-teasing," a euphemism for sexual harassment in Bangladesh, is one of the factors that's discouraged girls from attending school, rights workers say.
The U.N.'s goals do not take measure of sexual violence or harassment, yet 62 percent of Bangladeshi women in a rural province reported suffering sexual violence at some point during their lives in 2005, according to the World Health Organization.
"We need security on the way to schools," said Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid's Bangladesh program. "We've had 18 girls commit suicide in 2010 because of the harassment they faced."
Another potential reason for the dropout rate is that teens in rural Bangladesh--whose families face more expensive dowry costs as they age--continue to marry as young as 13 or 14, and become pregnant within the next two years, say researchers.
"The strides we have taken are amazing, when you compare us to other South Asian countries, but that is not our standard," Kabir said. "We are talking about human rights, equal rights, and for those, we have a long way to go."
Amy Lieberman is a freelance journalist based out of the United Nations Secretariat.

For more information:

Millennium Development Goals Needs Assessment and Costing 2009-2015, Bangladesh:
Millennium Development Goals, UNDP:

Thu, 6/24: Dialogue for Action: Annual International Forum to Help Women Around the World


I will be attending the following FREE event.  Hope you can join me.  The organizers are especially interested in getting more young feminists to attend.

Jerin Alam
National and NY State NOW Young Feminist Task Forces


Grand Hyatt New York
109 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017

Park Avenue Room, Mezzanine Level

Welcome Coffee
Ballroom Level


Key Note Address by Cecilia Attias, Founder and President, The Cecilia Attias Foundation for Women


Facilitated by Sade Baderinwa, Anchor/Reporter WABC-TV
· Bazaiba Masudi Eve, Senator and President of Congolese Women League for Election
· Esther Ibanga, Pastor Women on the Plateau Peace Initiative
· Molly Melching, Executive Director Tostan
· Promise Mthembu, Executive Director Her Rights Initiative

· Letty Chiwara, Chief of the Africa Division for UNIFEM
· Innocence Ntap, Minister of Civil Service, Labor and Professional Organizations, Senegal
· Prinitha Pillay, Medical Doctor, Doctors without Borders

With the Support of:
· Fatou Sow Sarr, Professor at Dakar University
Special Closing Address by: Sophie Delaunay, Executive Director Doctors Without Borders

Facilitated by Cindi Leive, Editor-in-Chief Glamour Magazine

· Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Hour Children
· Rosario Perez, CEO, Pro Mujer
· Sima Quraishi, Executive Director, Muslim Women Resource Center                
· Dale Standifer, Executive Director, Metropolitan Center for Women and Children
· Adrienne Germain, President of the International Women’s Health Coalition
· Pamela Gross, Editor at Large, The Hill
· Ambassador Craig Stapleton, Former Ambassador to France
· Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of Partnership for New York City

Special Closing Address by: Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women's World Banking
12:30-2:00pm LUNCH BALLROOM I


Facilitated by Anita Pratap, Documentary Filmmaker, Author, Journalist
· Sakena Yacoobi, Executive Director, Afghan Institute of Learning
· Dr. Basmah Omair, CEO of Khadija Bint Khawilid Center for Businesswomen
· Manju Kochar, Chairman, Prasad Chikitsa
· Guy Jacobsen, Founder Redlight Children

With the Support of:
· Lucky Chherti, Founder and Program Director, Empowering Women of Nepal
· Bandana Rana, President, SAATHI

· Chékéba Hachemi, President, Afghanistan Libre
· Dina Powell, President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and Global Head of the Office of Corporate Engagement
· Zainab Salbi, Founder of Women for Women International
· Mu Sochua, Member of Cambodian Parliament and Human Rights Advocate


Facilitated by Alison Smale, Executive Editor, International Herald Tribune
· Sophie Romana, Executive Director, PlaNet Finance
· Edit Schlaffer, Chairman and Founder, Women Without Borders, SAVE – Sisters Against Violent Extremism
· May de Silva, Director, Women into Politics
· Inna Tymchyk, Board Member, Faith, Hope and Love

· David Arkless, President, Global Corporate & Government Affairs, Manpower Inc.
· Kat Rohrer, Director/Producer, GreenKat Productions
· Fernando Villalonga, Consul General of Spain

Closing remarks Cecilia Attias, Founder and President, The Cecilia Attias Foundation for Women

The Dialogue for Action will function as a new dynamic platform where action-driven discussions will focus exclusively on identifying the three main women’s issues affecting each continent and finding solutions to improve them.
It will be the first event of its kind to build a dynamic community of organizations that champion the cause of women’s dignity, equality and well-being. We are delighted to be inviting NGO leaders from every continent and to provide them with a platform for dialogue and sharing best practices.
Experts and influencers from the public and private sectors of business, politics, media and academia will provide insight to identify solutions to the most pressing issues facing women.
Following the Dialogue for Action, The Cécilia Attias Foundation for Women will see that dedicated initiatives are implemented where needed. Local regional meetings will be organized as part of the follow-up in the field to assess the progress of each initiative.
With the help of dedicated NGO leaders, our media partners and through a series of creative fundraising events, we will work towards the betterment of women’s lives around the world.

If you have received an invitation letter, please complete the following online registration process to participate in the Dialogue for Action 2010.


The Dialogue for Action is an invitation-only forum. We welcome NGO leaders and women’s rights experts from the public and private sectors to apply.
To be considered for an invitation, please send us an email to Katie.Eid@theexperiencecorp.com or call us at +1 (212) 794 8801 ext 107.

Somali Keeps Her AIDS Secret Despite Wedding Plans


Womens eNews
Covering Women's Issues -
Changing Women's Lives

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Somali Keeps Her AIDS Secret Despite Wedding Plans

By Fatuma Noor
WeNews correspondent
Thursday, June 17, 2010
A Somali woman in Kenya faces an arranged wedding knowing she could infect her husband with HIV-AIDS. She contracted the disease through unsafe anal sex to preserve her virginity.
A Somali woman in Kenya faces an arranged wedding knowing she could infect her husband with HIV-AIDS. NAIROBI, Kenya (WOMENSENEWS)--A month before she learned she had HIV, Sophia said she knew something was wrong. She started suffering from a constant fever and achy muscles.
She thought it was malaria and saw a doctor at the Nairobi Women's Hospital who said she was infected with HIV. Due to her weak immune system, she said she now has AIDS.
When Sophia confronted her boyfriend about her diagnosis he confessed that he tested positive three months before they became sexually involved.
"I cannot tell anyone about it, not even the closest of my friends," Sophia said, since she is not married and premarital sex goes against her Muslim culture. "My mother would have a heart attack if she knew I was positive."
Sophia (not her real name) is a 20-year-old Somali woman who, though recently having a boyfriend, has been betrothed for most of her life to a Muslim man from another country whom she has never met. The wedding, she thinks, will be in September.
She contracted HIV-AIDS by engaging in anal sex. Like many of her friends, she thought having that type of sex would preserve her virginity for her husband.
Nicholas Muraguri, director of the National AIDS and STD Control Programme in Kenya, said anal sex is four times riskier than any other type of sex because the inner lining of the anus is delicate and tears easily when roughly penetrated.
He said the practice of unprotected anal sex is common in some communities where virginity before marriage is valued and also among young people because they believe it is safer than other types of sex.
"The problem is most of the young people prefer this method as compared to vaginal sex," Muraguri said, adding that his program will soon be releasing a study on this problem.

'Normal Lifestyle'

Despite her diagnosis, Sophia seemed to think anal intercourse had been a good option. "I can live a normal lifestyle as any other girl and not worry," she said.
The big thing on her mind right now is that she does not have to worry about embarrassing her family on her wedding night.
A typical Somali wedding celebration ends with the newlyweds in a bedroom and the groom's family waiting outside for a bloody sheet to prove the bride's virginity. If she fails this test, the man's family has the right to demand repayment of the dowry paid the bride's family.
A bride here in Kenya might not face the 100 lashings that is meted out in other Islamic countries, but she can often be shunned and considered dead by the family for not being a virgin.
Women's eNews met Sophia through an HIV-AIDS awareness workshop in Nairobi and interviewed her at her mother's empty clothing shop in Nairobi's Eastleigh, a neighborhood with many Somali immigrants.
An official at the National AIDS Control Council in Nairobi said that Sophia has some places to turn if she decides to tell her parents and they expel her.
The council and groups such as the Kenya Network of Women with Aids provide housing to many women suffering from HIV. Representatives of both groups said they could also provide her with tailoring work to make a living.
Sophia is reluctant though, saying that all this is about her family and the community.

Fear of Being Shunned

She doesn't disclose her status to anyone for the fear of being shunned by her family and even the community at large.
For the time being, her boyfriend pays for her medication. Sometimes the hospital dispenses antiretroviral medication free of charge.
Sophia worries about infecting her husband, but for now he remains something of an abstraction.
"I don't know much about him but my father says that he is coming in August. This will be our first meeting," she said.
Dr. Nduku Kilonzo, director for Liverpool Voluntary Testing Center, a care and treatment center for people infected with HIV-AIDS in Nairobi, said HIV-AIDS messages should be clearer about the dangers that poorly educated young women such as Sophia face when they adopt anal intercourse as a means of preserving of virginity.
Aisha Hajji, a sociologist at the University of Nairobi, agrees. She said the use of anal sex to preserve notions of virginity goes far beyond the Somali community and that too few young people understand the dangers.
Sophia quit school at 11 to help her mother in the shop. "If my parents had taken me to school, I could have learned the risks of anal sex," she said in Swahili.
She said her boyfriend was the one to suggest anal sex as a way to safeguard her virginity, but it's also something she learned from friends.
"It's a common practice," she said. "Many of my friends have anal sex. We live in a secular country. They not only do it with their Christian boyfriends but the Somali and Muslims boyfriends who should know better."
Fatuma Noor is an award-winning Kenyan journalist who works for The Star Newspaper in Nairobi. She covers refugee and women issues.

For more information:

National AIDS Control Council in Kenya:

Help Young Female Afghan and Rwanda Entrepreneurs: TODAY ONLY!


As a woman, I'm asking you to give another woman a chance.   Just $15 and you need to do it TODAY.

Bpeace's Race to Innovation encourages Rwandan and Afghan entrepreneurs with bold ideas by providing them with business training, coaching and mentoring from Bpeace volunteers like me. We have been raising seed capital on their behalf and TODAY ONLY, Global GIving will match what you give 1:2.  

Two of the compelling women in Bpeace's Race to Innovation are Sora and Sarah. 

Sora’s dream is to manufacture potato chips, serving a demanding population and providing Afghan potato farmers with a new market.  See her video and vote for her at:  (http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/sora/). 

Sarah’s dream is to build new greenhouses in Rwanda to grow enough pesticide-free tomatoes to meet the growing demand, replacing imports with a local product.  See her video and vote for her at:  (http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/sarah/). 

Bpeace is helping them because they will create local jobs and MORE JOBS MEAN LESS VIOLENCE.  We are aiming to raise $2,000 for each of them today, and if we can do that by midnight, Global Giving will match with an additional $1,000.  Sora and Sara will receive 100% of the funds raised on their behalf. Additionally, Bpeace will continue providing technical expertise to help them invest the funds in their businesses wisely.

This will take but a few minutes.  Please do this for me today.  THANK YOU.

$15 is a vote for hope.  Please.  www.bpeace.org/vote

In Solidarity,
Jerin Alam
National NOW Young Feminist Task Force
NOW – NYS Young Feminist Task Force 
National Organization for Women (NOW)

Feminist Cheers & Jeers of the Week: Female Teen Sailor Found; Iranian Journalist Jailed


Womens eNews
Covering Women's Issues -
Changing Women's Lives

Saturday, June 12, 2010
Female Teen Sailor Found; Iranian Journalist Jailed
By WeNews Staff
Saturday, June 12, 2010


thumb pointing up
Abby Sunderland, a 16-year-old American teen who attempted to sail around the world on her own, has been found a day after she had gone missing in the Indian Ocean, reported the BBC June 11.
Sunderland sent distress signals after her yacht was pounded by huge waves nearly 2,000 miles off the south African coast and midway to her destination in Australia. Her father said Sunderland would not be resuming her round-the-world attempt.
Sunderland's story comes just a month after Australia's Jessica Watson became the youngest person to sail around the world non-stop, solo and unassisted at age 16, reported Agence France-Presse.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $1.5 billion on June 7 in a joint push with the U.N. to improve the health of women and children, reported Reuters June 8. Melinda Gates and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described a comprehensive approach through 2014 to bring improvements in women's and children's health, including the areas of prenatal care, access to contraception and promotion of education on vaccination, nutrition and breastfeeding.
  • The National Center for Women and Information Technology released June 10 a report titled "Women in IT: The Facts." The report indicates that the technology industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S, with more than 1.4 million potential new computing-related job openings by 2018. As the industry has so far failed to attract highly-qualified women to move into these jobs, the report addresses the role of women's participation in the rapidly-expanding field. The report also documents the wage gap in the computer industry.
  • Democrats are looking to repeal a longtime ban on abortions performed at U.S. military hospitals overseas, reported FOX News June 9. The bill, part of an amendment to the defense authorization bill, threatens policy enacted during the Clinton administration that restricts abortions at military hospitals to only cases of rape, incest or if the woman's life is threatened.
  • Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa are the first in the nation to administer abortion pills by videoconference with a physician, reported The New York Times June 8. After an in-person exam with a nurse, the patient videoconferences with a physician. Afterward, the physician can press a button remotely that releases the drawer in front of the woman containing bottles for two pregnancy-ending pills--mifepristone and misoprostol. The concept was first promoted by Jill June, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and a Women's eNews 21 Leader 2003.
  • Three anti-choice bills that would have had a detrimental impact on women's health and safety have been beaten back in the New York Assembly Health Committee, according to a Huffington Post blog June 7.
  • The Internal Revenue Service has ruled that same-sex couples must be treated the same as heterosexual couples under a feature of California tax law, reported The Wall Street Journal June 5. Advocates for the change say it is the first time the agency has acknowledged same-sex couples as a unit for tax purposes. Couples in Nevada and Washington--community-property states that also recognize domestic partnership--may also be affected. The IRS said the nearly 58,000 couples who are registered as domestic partners in California must combine their income and each report half of it on their separate tax returns. Same-sex couples account for an estimated 95 percent of the state's domestic partnerships.
  • The nonprofit International Partnership for Microbicides announced the first trial among women in Africa to test a potential HIV-preventing vaginal ring, according to the organization's June 8 press statement. The ring contains an antiretroviral drug that may prevent the sexual transmission of HIV. The clinical trial will test the vaginal ring's safety and acceptability.
  • Faith Matters, an interfaith community cohesion and conflict resolution organization, has launched a report naming England's top 100 mosques that meet the needs of Muslim women, reported the organization June 7. The report is based on interviews with over 100 Muslim women living across England from Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Somali and Turkish communities and assesses approximately 500 mosques throughout the country. Criteria in assessing the mosques included the provision of separate prayer spaces for women, services geared toward women and an Iman or female scholar who is accessible to women.
  • Taking serious note of the fact that reproductive rights of women were still not guaranteed in spite of various schemes that are in place, the Delhi High Court in India has awarded compensation to two women who gave birth on the streets because of the government's negligence, reported sifynews June 6.


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Iran sentenced award-winning journalist Jila Baniyaghoob to jail for one year and banned her from writing for 30 years, reported Agence France-Presse June 9. Baniyaghoob was arrested a year ago and charged with propaganda against the Islamic regime over her reports on last year's disputed presidential election and the protests following the official results. In 2009, the International Women's Media Foundation gave Baniyaghoob its Courage in Journalism award.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • A Saudi cleric has issued a decree permitting unrelated women and men to mingle so long as the man drinks the woman's breast milk, reported The Los Angeles Times June 10. Sheik Abdel Mohsen Obeikan, a scholar and consultant at Saudi Arabia's royal court, has called for women to give men breast milk--not directly from the breast--to establish maternal relations and get around the ultra-conservative kingdom's ban on mixing between men and women who are unrelated. Islamic tradition stipulates that breastfeeding establishes a degree of maternal bond, even if a woman breastfeeds a child who is not her own.
  • Young children of women abused by their partners are at an increased risk of being obese, finds a Boston University study, reported Reuters June 8. The study looked at nearly 1,600 children born between 1998 and 2000, most of whom were born to unmarried parents. It indicated that the more often abuse occurs, the higher the risk that pre-school children--especially girls--will be obese. Children whose mothers reported being chronically abused by a partner were 80 percent more likely to be obese at age 5, compared to children whose mothers reported no abuse.
  • As an estimated half-million soccer fans descended on South Africa for the World Cup, which began June 11, there are increasing concerns that more people will become victims of human trafficking and that younger women and girls, in particular, will be at risk, reported ESPN's "Outside the Lines" June 7. Patric Solomons, director of the Cape Town-based children's advocacy group Molo Songololo, believes the magnitude of the World Cup will definitely have an impact and fears that a host of factors--including a huge, impoverished lower class and no laws specifically criminalizing all forms of human trafficking--make South Africa uniquely susceptible to exploitation by human trafficking syndicates, reported the article.
  • To care for the growing number of obese pregnant women, hospitals are buying longer surgical instruments, more sophisticated fetal testing machines and bigger beds, reported The New York Times June 5. The problem has become so acute that five New York City hospitals--one of which says 38 percent of its pregnant women are obese--have formed a consortium to determine how to handle the situation.


  • A study finds that children of women who took the epilepsy drug valproic acid during the first trimester of pregnancy are more likely to have serious birth defects, reported HealthDay News June 9. Specifically, babies whose mothers took valproic acid during the first trimester were 12.7 times more likely to have a spinal court defect, 2.5 times more likely to have a heart defect and five times more likely to have a cleft palate than babies of mothers who did not take the drug. The absolute risk of having a baby with any of these defects, however, remains small.
  • On Super Duper Tuesday female candidates from both political parties emerged victorious, reported The Washington Post June 9. Women winning nominations for U.S. Senate seats include Arkansas' incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), Nevada's former State Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R) and California's former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina (R). She will face a female opponent in the general election, incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer (D). Gubernatorial nominations included California's former eBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman (R) and South Carolina's Rep. Nikki Haley (R).
  • Research shows that cases of domestic violence increase by nearly 30 percent in England on soccer match days. In response, Greater Manchester has launched a domestic abuse campaign to run up to and during this year's World Cup, reported End the Fear June 9. The campaign includes a series of posters incorporating images of a football shirt, a remote control and a broken beer bottle, which will be displayed in locations such as hospitals, doctors' offices and licensed premises. The advertisements containing information on domestic abuse support services will also run on buses.
  • Singer Chris Brown has postponed his tour in Britain after being denied a visa to enter the country in a decision linked to his criminal record, reported Reuters June 8. In August 2009, Brown was sentenced to five years' probation for assaulting then-girlfriend singer Rihanna. Britain's Home Office said: "We reserve the right to refuse entry to the U.K. to anyone guilty of a serious criminal offense. Public safety is one of our primary concerns. Each application to enter the U.K. is considered on its individual merits," reported Reuters.
  • A half-dozen Catholic reform groups pushing for women to be ordained as Roman Catholic priests marched on the Vatican June 8 to promote their cause, reported the Associated Press. The march on St. Peter's Square occurred on the eve of a three-day Vatican rally marking the end of the church's yearlong celebration of the priesthood.
  • Veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas resigned June 7 over comments she made concerning Jews in the Middle East, reported The Guardian June 9. Thomas, 89, reported on the White House for half a century and through nine U.S. presidential administrations. She is recognized as a trailblazer for women in journalism and, among many firsts, was the first female officer of the National Press Club and first female president of the White House Correspondents' Association.
  • Kavita Ramdas, president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, announced in a press release June 7 that she was stepping down as of September 15, after 14 years at the fund. Ramdas, a Women's eNews 21 Leader 2003, said she would be on sabbatical until June of next year. She added that the fund expects to have a new president in place by early 2011. Ramdas' announcement comes on the heels of Sarah Gould's announcement on May 26 that she would leave as head of the Ms. Foundation after 25 years. Gould is a Women's eNews 21 Leader 2009.
  • A Nevada state senator says he wasn't intending to bribe a rape victim's sister when he left her a message suggesting it could be "financially beneficial" if she told the truth, the Associated Press reports. Republican Sen. Dennis Nolan acknowledges making the May 19 call but says he just wanted to coax the woman to meet with him so he could wear a "wire" and record what she said. The rape case involves Gordon Lawes, a friend of the senator. The 28-year-old was convicted in 2008 of raping a 16-year-old girl; he was sentenced to life in prison with possible parole after 10 years.

Global Maternal Health Gets 2nd Big Checkup


Womens eNews
Covering Women's Issues -
Changing Women's Lives

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Global Maternal Health Gets 2nd Big Checkup
By Linda Kramer
WeNews correspondent
Thursday, June 10, 2010
A second major global gathering on women's maternal health wrapped up in Washington, D.C., June 9. Participants celebrated progress and a huge new funding infusion and focused pressure on the G-8 summit in Canada later this month.
Women Deliver 2010 press conferenceWASHINGTON (WOMENSENEWS)--More than 3,500 women from 146 countries converged on the nation's capital this week for a second major conference on maternal mortality.
They celebrated benchmark achievements in reducing maternal and infant mortality and faced stubborn failures at the same time.
The gathering, organized by the global advocacy group Women Deliver, was able to savor success stories in countries such as Sri Lanka and Malawi, where maternal deaths have been significantly lowered since the first conference was held in London in 2007.
But the Women Deliver conference also offered a forum for tales of women still dying preventable childbirth deaths and of inadequate access to family planning services for 215 million women worldwide.
"We must fight for women's health with all our resources all the time," pledged U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon at the opening session on June 7.
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Melinda Gates, a major philanthropist in this field, followed later that morning to announce $1.5 billion in new support from the Gates Foundation, based in Seattle, for programs targeting women's health. She said she hoped that donation would spur the G-8 summit in Canada on June 25, where leaders of eight of the world's most industrialized nations will meet, to step up in a similar fashion.
Gates pointed out that 350,000 women still die every year giving birth and that 3 million newborns die annually.
"Women and children have finally moved up on the global agenda, and I'm here to tell you that's where they are going to stay," she said.
The mother of three added that she "cannot imagine being denied access to the tools" to plan her family and the "basic right to decide how many children to have."

Integrated Approach

Gates emphasized a theme that emerged in several sessions throughout the three-day conference: the need for a more integrated approach to global family planning efforts that doesn't address one disease or problem at a time, but instead focuses on caring for the total human being.
"I'm making women and children's health my personal priority as co-chair of the Gates Foundation," she said.
The group's agenda calls for another $12 billion a year to achieve the millennium development goals for combating maternal and newborn mortality--MDGs 4 and 5. In September, the U.N. will host a review session for progress on the MDGs--a set of international promises to fight world poverty--as part of the annual General Assembly.
The conference ranged from panels featuring major players on the world stage--including former-Chilean President Michelle Batchelet, former-Irish President Mary Robinson and U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Veveer--to those featuring health care workers and nongovernmental organization staffers working on the ground in developing nations.
Only a handful of the conference's 140 panels focused on access to safe abortion.
"We are going to have great differences of opinion on abortion. That is the reality in our society," Veveer told one panel titled "A Better Life for the World's Women." "But this is something we can agree on. We know family planning reduces abortion. We know it reduces maternal mortality. We know it improves the life of the mother."

Abortion Study in the Conference Bag

The sidestepping of abortion was noted in some media reports, but Jill Sheffield, founder of Women Deliver, told Women's eNews that a report by the Guttmacher Institute, the New York-based research group, on abortion was purposely included in the conference bags for all attendees.
"The answer is that access to safe services when women need them is really really important. The Guttmacher report was in the conference bag because we need to find a common ground to talk about this and do something about it, and I think the way that is going to happen is through evidence, and their documents are full of evidence," she said.
The conference brought together some 80 parliamentarians from various countries, nearly 50 ministers of different kinds and the first ladies of several African nations.
Sheffield has hoped first lady Michelle Obama would play a role. "We need all the political power we can get," she said.
While the conference looked outward, to other parts of the globe, maternal mortality remains a significant problem in its host country.
Amnesty International reported that two women die every day in the United States from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
"I think the U.S. was shocked by what they read and the fact that we are one of the few Northern industrialized relatively rich countries where maternal mortality is going up, at least in pockets it's going up," said Sheffield.
Countdown 2015, an initiative of governments, international agencies and others working toward the MDGs, released a report at the conference tracking 68 developing countries where over 95 percent of maternal and newborn deaths occur. It found pockets of progress but concluded that most countries are not on course to meet the goal of MDG5, which aims to cut maternal deaths by 75 percent from 1990 to 2015 and achieve universal access to reproductive health.

Some Good News

Women Deliver 2010 opening plenaryThe good news included countries like Mozambique and Malawi, where over 90 percent of C-sections in rural areas are now performed by trained surgical technicians. In Nepal, where unsafe abortions had contributed to a soaring maternal mortality rate, liberalization of the country's abortion law in 2002 helped cut in half maternal mortality. In Sri Lanka, a concerted government effort has cut maternal mortality to one of the lowest rates in the developing world.
However, the Countdown report found that overall funding for family planning programs has declined over the past two decades. In addition, it said Africa alone needs 1.5 million more health workers if mothers and children are going to receive the care they need to survive.
Conference participants repeatedly referred to the need to customize programs based on cultural differences among countries.
"Every culture has a stew and its different ingredients," said Sheffield. "We need to honor their preferences and how they respond to different things."
Sheffield said Women Deliver was timed to build momentum for the G-8 summit in Canada later this month, followed by the meeting this summer of African heads of state and the U.N. General Assembly in September.
"Everybody agrees that women have been delivering for the world and now it's time for the world to step up to the plate and deliver for women," she said.
"The value of the conference is reemphasizing for everybody that safe motherhood is a fundamental human right," said Dr. Pamela Lynam, who came to the conference from Kenya, where she is the country director for Jhpiego, an international health organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "If every woman in the world only had children when she wanted to, we'd have a whole new world. That's the kind of revolution we need."
Linda Kramer is a Washington-based reporter and professor of journalism at Georgetown University.

For more information:

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