Friday, August 31, 2007

An excellent role model

Valerie Gooding, CEO, BUPA

Published on August 27, 2007 on the CNN website

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Valerie Gooding is in the top five most powerful businesswomen in Europe as named by the Financial Times.


She runs global health and care organization BUPA and under her leadership it has grown to over 8 million customers in over 190 countries and record revenues.

CNN's Todd Benjamin spoke to her in London and began by asking her why there are so few women at the top. She said it goes beyond family issues.

Read the Interview here

CNN's Profile
Valerie Gooding is currently ranked in the top five most powerful businesswomen in Europe by the Financial Times and has steered the British private healthcare organization BUPA to continued success.

Gooding joined BUPA in 1996 and was made the company's CEO in August 1998.

Since her appointment the company has grown to over 8 million customers in over 190 countries and record revenues, and is the UK's largest independent healthcare company.

Before joining BUPA she worked at British Airways.

Val is a non-executive director of Compass Group plc (since January 2000) and of Standard Chartered Bank plc (since January 2005).

She is a member of the council of Warwick University as well as co-chair of the advisory board of the Warwick Business School. She is a trustee of the British Museum, and a non-executive director of the Lawn Tennis Association.

Val was awarded the CBE for services to business in the 2002 new year's honours list.

Sunday, August 26, 2007's about time!

Published on the BBC website on Saturday, August 25

China to act on gender imbalance
Boys from a kindergarten class
Boys outnumber girls at school
The Chinese government says it is drafting new laws to tackle the growing gender imbalance caused by the widespread abortion of female foetuses.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

NY Times Obituary for Grace Paley

Grace Paley, Writer and Activist, Dies at 84
Published: August 24, 2007
Grace Paley explored the struggles of ordinary women in precise, pungent stories.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Female infanticide holocaust rages on in India

In other words, baby girls are being killed in the womb or at birth on an industrial scale, except there are no gas chambers or ovens this time around - just ultrasound equipment and medical tools. I'm amazed that it doesn't spark generalised outrage. If you think the genocide in Darfur has been neglected, this most heinous type of mass murder is overlooked and invisible.

By Nick Bryant
BBC News

"Why pay 50,000 rupees to your new in-laws when you can pay 500 rupees for an abortion? You do not even have to leave home.

Many unscrupulous doctors carry portable ultra-sound equipment in the boots of their cars.

Increased consumer choice is one of the hallmarks of the new India.

Tragically, it is being applied, with almost industrial efficiency, to depress the female birth rate."

  • Female infanticide occurs in 80% of states
  • Worst-affected states include wealthiest areas
  • 927 girls born for every 1,000 boys
  • Infant mortality rate: 60/1,000

More on Bodies and Souls

Here's another article on Bodies and Souls: The Tragic Plight of Three Jewish Women Forced into Prostitution in the Americas 1860 to 1939 (William Morrow & Company, 2005).

The Jewish Prostitutes of South America

And here's an excerpt:
In hindsight, I embarked on the research into the white slave trade rather naively. I certainly never expected “historians” in South America to escort me out of their offices and homes when I mentioned the Jewish prostitutes. I didn’t expect to find many of the police documents and hospital records pertaining to the thousands of impoverished women forced to work as prostitutes and shunned by their fellow Jews to have simply vanished without a trace.
Read the article in full here

Thanks again to Marc Herold for sending this link.

The Jewish prostitutes who founded the Society for Truth in Rio

My good friend Marc Herold just sent me this fascinating article from :

In the Life

Piecing together the lives of women caught up in the white slave trade

Interview by Sara Ivry Today, reports abound about women from Nigeria, Thailand, or Albania working as prostitutes abroad. But international sex-trafficking is nothing new. Between 1860 and 1940, Jews were ensnared in what was known as the "white slave trade." A network of pimps and conmen lured girls and young women from Eastern Europe to South America with promises of love and work. There, these women found themselves in cities such as Rio de Janeiro, without families, friends, or language skills. In Bodies and Souls, Isabel Vincent pieces together the biographies of three Jewish women forced into prostitution in the New World and examines the history of the Society for Truth, a mutual aid and burial society these outcasts founded as an alternative to the community that rejected them. Formerly based in Canada, Vincent now lives in Brazil. She is a newspaper reporter and author of Hitler's Silent Partners: Swiss Banks, Nazi Gold, And The Pursuit Of Justice....

How did these women come to form the Society for Truth?

In 1916, they pooled their resources and bought a plot of land. They had it officially designated as a cemetery. That was the founding principle, because the women who were dying of yellow fever and of venereal disease were being tossed aside in some city cemetery without a proper religious ceremony. These women didn't want to die like that. They organized their burial society earlier than the Jewish community in Rio, and there was a lot of animosity from the upstanding Jews of Rio, that these women would be able to do it first.

Then it became more ambitious. The women wanted to be able to advance each other money to send each other back to Poland or Romania or Russia if they wanted to spend their last years there. They would pay for hospital stays. I think it grew too ambitious, and when the women started dying off in the 1960s and 1970s, the whole thing disappeared. There was nobody left to support it.

These once penniless women had sufficient resources to front money for passage to Europe?

They were very strict about collecting dues every month, about the operation of the society. That became the most important thing in their lives. You see it in all of the minutes. It's amazing. In 1942, they buy a building for cash in downtown Rio. Some of these women went on to become quite serious madams who had more than one brothel and several women, not necessarily Jewish, working for them.

It sounds proto-feminist.

Well, they were trying to seize control of their own destiny. Most women were not able to—most women in South America were not able to vote until much later. I don't think they looked at it in political terms. They just did it out of desperation and the need to survive—and the need to survive spiritually, which I found very moving: that everything else can go wrong and they can be working in a brothel, but they wanted to be Jewish, and they wanted to hold on to some kind of dignity and faith. For them, unfortunately, that meant death, when they felt they could return to what they were....

Can you tell me a bit more what so captivated you about this chapter of history?

First of all, I'm a journalist. Secondly, I really feel for these women, I'm amazed at what they did. If you see the cemetery and you stand there with the sun beating down, you think, "Oh, my God, how did they end up here from Eastern Europe so long ago?" It's a sad story. But it's also a powerful story, that they banded together and created a cemetery so they could die with dignity. It transcends religion. It becomes this universal quest for meaning and dignity, and dying with a clean soul. I'm not very religious, but I was very moved by their story.

Read the interview in full here

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Nigeria's Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

It's always a pleasure to report good news for a change:

The BBC's Sola Odunfa in Lagos profiles Nigeria's Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, one of the architects of the country's settling of almost all of its foreign debts.

Click here to read the whole story

Wedded to Work, and in Dire Need of a Wife

Published: August 11, 2007
Many working women, seeing their lack of devoted spousal support as an impediment to getting ahead, are wishing they had wives.

Read the NY Times article here

Fortunately, since I live in Brazil, where labour is relatively cheap, I can afford a full-time maid - whom I call my "housewife" - otherwise, as a divorced single mother with two daughters in university, I'd be in the same boat

Bars without women

More from the Freakonomics blog

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ngawang Sangdrol

As F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, "Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy." Ngawang Sangdrol's story mirrors the tragedy of her country.

Surviving a Tibetan gulag
By Sarah Buckley
BBC News

Ngawang Sangdrol, a former political prisoner in Tibet, only smiles once during our hour-long interview.

She had been asked how long a particular torture method - being hung by the arms after they are tied behind the back - would be used during incarceration.

"It's so painful you don't keep a timing on it," she said simply.

Ms Sangdrol served 12 years in prison before she was released in 2002. She is still only in her late 20s.

She was first imprisoned aged 13, after she joined her fellow nuns in Garu Nunnery in shouting "Independence for Tibet" and "Long live the Dalai Lama" during a protest outside the Summer Palace in Lhasa.

read the rest of her story here

Sunday, August 12, 2007

African NGO wins Hilton prize

Female genital mutilation is nothing new - it has been around for centuries, if not longer (Sir Richard Burton described it in detail in the 1800s). What is surprising is the lack of generalised outrage this cruel and widespread practice inspires. In fact, the silence is deafening. I hope this award will help spotlight a serious problem and contribute to its solution.

Award for anti-mutilation charity
By David Bamford
BBC News Africa editor

A girl undergoing circumcision

An West African aid group campaigning to abolish female genital mutilation has been awarded the world's biggest prize for humanitarian work.

The Tostan organisation, based in Senegal, has been chosen for the Hilton Prize, worth $1.5m (£740,000)

The organisation uses traditional song, poetry, theatre and dance to educate people in West African villages about the dangers of genital mutilation.... Their grassroots approach has been key to dealing sensitively with an issue that involves convincing traditional communities they should move away from a long-maintained yet cruel cultural practice.

Click here to read the article in full

Is "negging" the new "n-word"?

Published on the NY Times website on 10 Aug 07

Freakonomics blog on The Science of Insulting Women
By Melissa Lafsky

Picking up women has been getting plenty of press these days, leading up to this week’s premiere of the VH1 reality show The Pick-Up Artist. The show follows eight “socially inept” men through an eight-week boot camp on seduction techniques, led by a self-proclaimed Lothario called “Mystery.” The headliner (whose real name is Erik Von Markovik) initially found fame after being profiled in Neil Strauss’s 2005 book The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, and went on to co-write his own book, How to Get Beautiful Women Into Bed: The Mystery Method.

Under particular discussion is a pickup technique that Mystery advocates known as “negging” — a move that involves interjecting an insult during an initial conversation with a woman. The motivation behind the insult is, as Esquire’s A.J. Jacobs puts it, to “lower her self-esteem, thus making her more vulnerable to your advances.” While this tactic has provoked considerable ire, by all accounts from Strauss and his skirt-chasing Svengali, it seems to work.

Read the rest (including my comment) here

Friday, August 10, 2007

Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge vs. HIV/AIDS (and Dr Beetroot)

Antiretrovirals or garlic and beetroot? Why not all three? In any event, good nutrition is far better than the other "solution" (raping virgins). Seriously though, I consider Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge a heroine because she lost her job for siding with modern medicine, which, though not always right, has proven effective in combating HIV/AIDS.

BBC News article published 10 Aug 07

Sacked S Africa minister hits out

South Africa's former deputy health minister has said she was sacked for doing her job.

Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge said she had been fired for going on an unauthorised trip to a Spanish Aids conference and for criticising hospital conditions.

She said it was her duty to respond quickly to reports that babies were dying in a maternity hospital.

Her sacking has been condemned by Aids activists and the opposition as a setback in the fight against HIV.

Some 5.5m South Africans are HIV-postive - more than in any other country.

Read the rest here