Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dr. Hawa Abdi - Heroic, Female and Muslim

'But there’s another side of Islam as well, represented by an extraordinary Somali Muslim woman named Dr. Hawa Abdi who has confronted the armed militias. Amazingly, she forced them to back down — and even submit a written apology. Glamour magazine, which named Dr. Hawa a “woman of the year,” got it exactly right when it called her “equal parts Mother Teresa and Rambo.”'

Heroic, Female and Muslim -

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Harriet Tubman

But one night in the midst of the secession crisis, while staying at the house of another black leader, a vision came to Tubman in a dream that all of America’s slaves were soon to be liberated – a vision so powerful that she rose from bed singing. Her host tried in vain to quiet her; perhaps their grandchildren would live to see the day of jubilee, he said, but they themselves surely would not. “I tell you, sir, you’ll see it, and you’ll see it soon,” she retorted, and sang again: “My people are free! My people are free.”

Moses' Last Exodus -

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why Are Women in Some Countries Oppressed? -

November 19, 2010, 1:54 pm

There’s much debate about why women in some countries are presidents and business executives, and women in others are locked up in the home and beaten or brutalized if they try to stand up for themselves. Obviously the differences are rooted in culture, but there are diverse theories about why some cultures resulted in more emancipated women and others in more oppressed women.

One theory, which originated with Ester Boserup in 1970, is that it has to do with the emergence of the plow in agriculture. The idea is that in areas (such as Africa or southern India) where plows were little used, women engaged in agriculture and became important to the economy. They became valued by society to some degree. In contrast, where the plow was introduced, such as northern India and parts of the Middle East, women could not compete so readily because plowing required great physical strength. The result was that women were relegated to work in the home, were valued less, and even today women have less labor force participation in those countries.

This issue is the topic of a thoughtful new paper and Aid Watch blog post. Apparently there’s a correlation between plow use and the marginalization of women, and it makes sense to me. But I also think much depends on whether women were part of the cash and trading economy: where they were, they had more economic value, while where they grew vegetables for subsistence they had less value. I also look at China, and it’s not apparent to me that there’s any correlation in terms of the status of women with those parts where the plow was used and those where it wasn’t.

Your thoughts?

Why Are Women in Some Countries Oppressed? -

Friday, November 12, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi

  • Born 1945, daughter of Burma's independence hero, General Aung San assassinated in 1947
  • 1960: Leaves Burma and is later educated at Oxford University
  • 1988: Returns to care for sick mother and is caught up in revolt against then-dictator Ne Win
  • 1989: Put under house arrest as Burma junta declares martial law
  • 1990: NLD wins election; military disregards result
  • 1991: Wins Nobel Peace Prize
  • 1995: Released from house arrest, but movements restricted
  • 2000: Near continuous period of house arrest begins
  • Sept 2007: First public appearance since 2003, greeting protesting Buddhist monks
  • November 2010: NLD boycotts first election in 20 years and is disbanded
Source: BBC News

BBC News - Burma generals 'sign Aung San Suu Kyi release order'

Burma generals 'sign Aung San Suu Kyi release order'

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Erin O'Connor: From supermodel to role model -

She's been the face of Versace, Dior, Armani, and Gaultier -- and after 16 years commanding catwalks around the globe, the porcelain-skinned belle is still at the very top of her profession.

But beyond the extraordinary physique and angular, painterly features that define her appearance, O'Connor has emerged as a vocal proponent of change within the pressurized, often exploitative industry she inhabits.

Erin O'Connor: From supermodel to role model -

Op-Ed Columnist - Making Ignorance Chic -

Miller once called Marilyn “a poet on a street corner trying to recite to a crowd pulling at her clothes.”  - Maureen Dowd

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Heroine: Sheryl WuDunn

Tens of millions of 'missing' girls -

During their time as correspondents in China, WuDunn and Kristof learned of the phenomenon of an estimated 30 million "missing" baby girls in the nation.
WuDunn says part of the gap could be attributed to infanticide by families who were determined to have a male child under China's one-child policy and in part to the development of the sonogram. That medical device can be used to determine the gender of a child before birth, prompting some parents to obtain abortions.
"One peasant in the southern part of China once told us, 'The sonogram's great, we don't need to have baby girls any more.'

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Technology Heroine: Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace has emerged as the most popular role model in a day dedicated to celebrating women working in the fields of science and technology.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hissa Hilal

Female Saudi Poet, Known for Controversial Verses, Reaches Game Show Final - The Lede Blog -

I have seen evil from the eyes of the subversive fatwas in a time when what is lawful is confused with what is not lawful;
When I unveil the truth, a monster appears from his hiding place; barbaric in thinking and action, angry and blind; wearing death as a dress and covering it with a belt [referring to suicide bombing];
He speaks from an official, powerful platform, terrorizing people and preying on everyone seeking peace; the voice of courage ran away and the truth is cornered and silent, when self-interest prevented one from speaking the truth.
                                                                                             - Hissa Hilal

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Op-Ed Columnist - Driving Miss Saudi -

Op-Ed Columnist - Driving Miss Saudi -

Here's an excerpt from Maureen Dowd's Sunday column:
An American Muslim working here says there are hard adjustments, like hearing men use the occasional epithet “Dog” to address her, and not being able to leave the airport coming home from a business trip because she has no husband or male relative to pick her up.
She had to secure a letter from her employer stating that she could leave the airport on her own. When she wanted to buy a car, she had to use the subterfuge of having a male friend buy it for her, and even then, she can’t drive it except in one of the exclusive compounds with looser rules.
A recent article in The Arab News headlined “Working Mothers in a Double Bind” showed the growing pains of Saudi suffragettes. It told of a woman who secretly hired a cook to deliver meals and assuage her husband’s demand for home-cooked dinners. When her husband caught her, he divorced her — and Saudi divorces are easy as long as you’re male.
“He forgot his promises and left me just because of food,” said the woman, Huda.
...Americans are sometimes shocked to see Saudi women and realize “we’re not cowering, we’re actually quite professional. Are there issues here? Absolutely. There isn’t a place in the world that doesn’t have issues.
“I’d like to live in a Saudi where the woman that chooses to cover from top-to-bottom is equally as respected as the woman who chooses not to cover her face, and people from the West can accept that it is a lifestyle choice, inasmuch as wearing a miniskirt or a long, flowing dress is a choice. I find a lot of people minimize the women’s cause in Saudi by how we dress, and that is actually offensive.”

Friday, March 12, 2010

First Lady marks International Women’s Day with Hillary ‘President’ joke - Yahoo! News

First Lady marks International Women’s Day with Hillary ‘President’ joke - Yahoo! News


In a fitting show of solidarity for International Women's Day, First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made light of the brutal 2008 battle Clinton conducted to defeat Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. As Michelle Obama launched a State Department commemoration of International Women's Day, she briefly stumbled over Clinton's job title. "Let me thank my dear friend, Senator - Secretary Clinton. I almost said, 'President Clinton,' " said the first lady to laughter and applause. "But let me thank you for that kind introduction, and most of all thank you for your friendship, thank you for your support, and thank you for your indispensable advice in getting me through this first year and helping me figure out how to get my family settled in our new life in D.C."

The exchange stood as another rebuke to a favored theme of the Beltway pundit set: that tensions between the Obamas and the Secretary of State still run high. More than that, though, the series of events that the first lady presided over drew wider attention to the stubborn lags in gender equality beyond the developed Western world. Both women stressed this issue in their respective speeches. As Secretary Clinton put it, the world "can't solve problems of financial crisis, climate change, disease and poverty if half of the population is left behind."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Kathryn Bigelow - How Oscar Found Ms. Right -

Kathryn Bigelow - How Oscar Found Ms. Right -

KATHRYN BIGELOW’S two-fisted win at the Academy Awards for best director and best film for “The Hurt Locker” didn’t just punch through the American movie industry’s seemingly shatterproof glass ceiling; it has also helped dismantle stereotypes about what types of films women can and should direct. It was historic, exhilarating, especially for women who make movies and women who watch movies, two groups that have been routinely ignored and underserved by an industry in which most films star men and are made for and by men. It’s too early to know if this moment will be transformative — but damn, it feels so good

Monday, March 08, 2010

Let's hear it for the Land Down Under

The World’s Best Countries for Women - Economix Blog -

The G.D.I. takes both absolute and relative levels of these factors into account, penalizing countries with a high disparity between men’s and women’s achievements. In 2007, the latest year for which data are currently available, the United States ranked 13th on the Human Development Index and 19th on the Gender-Related Development Index. Norway took first place on the H.D.I., but only second on the G.D.I. (Australia took the gold in G.D.I. rankings.)

BBC News - Profile: Kathryn Bigelow

BBC News - Profile: Kathryn Bigelow

Kathryn Bigelow has become the first woman in the history of the Academy Awards to win the best director trophy, as her tension-filled Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker collected six prizes.

Three Proven Steps to Advance the World’s Women, on International Women’s Day - Nicholas D. Kristof Blog -

Three Proven Steps to Advance the World’s Women, on International Women’s Day - Nicholas D. Kristof Blog -

Why I (still) don't celebrate Women's Day

Women are not from Venus, we are from planet Earth. We represent 50% (or more) of the human race and according to the ancient Chinese proverb, we hold up half the sky. So why do we get just one day of the year?

Here's an entry I wrote in another post, on another Women's Day. It's still valid:

As you celebrate (if you do), remember the female foeticide and infanticide that still goes on in India and China, among other places. Remember the sex slaves in streets and brothels around the world. Remember the victims of female circumcision (RIP Katoucha Niane). Remember the victims of honour killings. Remember the girls being forced into marriage and women in traditional communities who are dying of AIDS, infected by their husbands. I could go on, but I'm getting a bit depressed, and more than a bit enraged. So please, don't wish me Happy Women's Day (again) this year.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Letting Women Reach Women in Afghan War -

Letting Women Reach Women in Afghan War -


Whatever the outcome, the teams reflect how much the military has adapted over nine years of war, not only in the way it fights but to the shifting gender roles within its ranks. Women make up only 6 percent of the Marine Corps, which cultivates an image as the most testosterone-fueled service, and they are still officially barred from combat branches like the infantry.

But in a bureaucratic sleight of hand, used by both the Army and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan when women have been needed for critical jobs like bomb disposal or intelligence, the female engagement teams are to be “attached” to all-male infantry units within the First Marine Expeditionary Force — a source of pride and excitement for them.

“When I heard about this, I said, Oh, that’s it, let’s go,” said Cpl. Vanessa Jones, 25.

The idea for the teams grew out of the “Lioness” program in Iraq, which used female Marines to search Iraqi women at checkpoints. Over the past year in Afghanistan, the Army and Marines have assembled ad hoc female engagement teams, but the women were hastily pulled from work as cooks or engineers.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Op-Ed Columnist - Divorced Before Puberty -

Op-Ed Columnist - Divorced Before Puberty -
Nujood is a Yemeni girl, and it’s no coincidence that Yemen abounds both in child brides and in terrorists (and now, thanks to Nujood, children who have been divorced). Societies that repress women tend to be prone to violence.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Op-Ed Columnist - Loosey-Goosey Saudi -

Op-Ed Columnist - Loosey-Goosey Saudi -
Maureen Dowd

Young Saudi women whom I interviewed said that the popular king has relaxed the grip of the bullying mutawa, the bearded religious police officers who patrol the streets ready to throw you in the clink at the first sign of fun or skin. Their low point came in 2002 when they notoriously stopped teenage girls without head scarves from fleeing a fire at a school in Mecca; 15 girls died. Two years ago, they arrested an American woman living here while she was sitting in a Starbucks with her male business partner, even though she was in a curtained booth in the “family” section designated for men and women.
“It is not allowed for any woman to travel alone and sit with a strange man and talk and laugh and drink coffee together like they are married,” the religious police said.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

On air: Can rape ever be the victim’s fault? « BBC World Have Your Say

On air: Can rape ever be the victim’s fault? « BBC World Have Your Say

Sabrina Gledhill participated in this rather bizarre exchange, which was dominated by the author of a book who insists that women who get drunk and climb into bed with men at frat parties shouldn't cry rape later on - as if the subject could or should be reduced to that one small demographic and context. (Opinion: good sense is essential, but rape is a crime, full stop. Women who make false claims of rape just make life all the harder for real victims)

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Op-Ed Columnist - Postcard From Yemen -

Op-Ed Columnist - Postcard From Yemen -

Sana is not Kabul, and Yemen is not Afghanistan — not yet. Yemenis have the resources to save themselves, but they need to be mobilized by better governance.

Monday, January 25, 2010

BBC: Burma hints of Aung San Suu Kyi release in November

Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon, Burma (Nov 2009)
Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years
Burma's military government may be planning to release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi later this year, say reports from the country.
Burma's home minister reportedly said Ms Suu Kyi would be freed when her current period of house arrest expires, which is scheduled for November.
Ms Suu Kyi's detention was extended last year, after a US man visited her house uninvited.
Critics say the junta intends to detain her until after elections this year.
Home Minister Maung Oo is reported to have made the comments about Ms Suu Kyi at a provincial town meeting four days ago.
The BBC's South East Asia correspondent Rachel Harvey says it is a measure of how tightly information is controlled in Burma that it has taken this long for the reports to filter out.
Burmese officials have hinted many times that Aung San Suu Kyi may be released, our correspondent adds, but this is the first time in recent months that a putative date has been attached to the idea.
Aung San Suu Kyi's own lawyer told the BBC he had heard the rumour but could not confirm it.
Ms Suu Kyi's detention was extended by 18 months last August, over an incident in which an American man swam, uninvited, to her lakeside home.
Sung San Suu Kyi's house in Rangoon, Burma ( 24 Dec 2009)
Burma extended Ms Suu Kyi's arrest after an intruder visited her home
If she is released in November, key questions remain about the terms of her possible freedom.
Those include whether there would be conditions attached, whether her activities would be restricted and - crucially - whether the release would come before or after planned elections.
The Supreme Court is also due to deliver its verdict on a legal appeal against her current detention in the next couple of weeks.
But if the military government says she will continue to be detained until at least November, the court's decision has already been somewhat undermined, says our correspondent.
Maung Oo is also reported to have said the vice chairman of Ms Suu Kyi's political party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), will be released in February.
Tin Oo, 82, has been in prison or under house arrest for more than a decade.
Analysts say if he is released, he could have a key role in deciding whether or not the NLD participates in the elections due later this year.
No date for the poll has yet been set.
But if Tin Oo is released in February, and Aung San Suu Kyi remains in detention until November, it could indicate that the elections are pencilled in for a date sometime between the two, says our correspondent.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Heroine: Ana González

Ana Gonzalez by Tomas Munita for The New York Times

A Serene Advocate for Chile’s Disappeared
Published in the NY Times on January 23, 2010
Ana González has transformed rage and grief at her loved ones’ capture into a challenge to the Pinochet dictatorship.

“They never thought that a woman, a housewife who didn’t know anything, not even where the courts were located, would take up the battle cry,” said Mrs. González, now 84, in an interview in the same modest home on Santiago’s outskirts where she lived with her husband and children. Faded pictures of her missing family members still hang in the dining room.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Women's movement mourns death of 3 Haitian leaders

By Jessica Ravitz

(CNN) -- One returned to her Haitian roots, to give voice to women, honor their stories and shape their futures.
Another urged women to pack a courtroom in Haiti, where she succeeded in getting a guilty verdict against a man who battered his wife.
A third joined the others and helped change the law to make rape, long a political weapon in Haiti, a punishable crime.
Myriam Merlet, Magalie Marcelin and Anne Marie Coriolan, founders of three of the country's most important advocacy organizations working on behalf of women and girls, are confirmed dead -- victims of last week's 7.0 earthquake.
Remembering the victims of the Haiti earthquake
And their deaths have left members of the women's movement, Haitian and otherwise, reeling.
"Words are missing for me. I lost a large chunk of my personal, political and social life," Carolle Charles wrote in an e-mail to colleagues. The Haitian-born sociology professor at Baruch College in New York is chair of Dwa Fanm (meaning "Women's Rights" in Creole), a Brooklyn-based advocacy group. These women "were my friends, my colleagues and my associates. I cannot envision going to Haiti without seeing them."
Myriam Merlet was until recently the chief of staff of Haiti's Ministry for Gender and the Rights of Women, established in 1995, and still served as a top adviser. She died after being trapped beneath her collapsed Port-au-Prince home, Charles said. She was 53.
iReport: A tribute to Merlet
Merlet, an author as well as an activist, fled Haiti in the 1970s. She studied in Canada, steeping herself in economics, women's issues, feminist theory and political sociology.
In the mid-1980s, she returned to her homeland. In "Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance," published in 2001, she contributed an essay, "The More People Dream," in which she described what brought her back.
"While I was abroad I felt the need to find out who I was and where my soul was. I chose to be a Haitian woman," she wrote. "We're a country in which three-fourths of the people can't read and don't eat properly. I'm an integral part of the situation. I am not in Canada in a black ghetto, or an extraterrestrial from outer space. I am a Haitian woman. I don't mean to say that I am responsible for the problems. But still, as a Haitian woman, I must make an effort so that all together we can extricate ourselves from them."
I felt the need to find out who I was and where my soul was. I chose to be a Haitian woman.
--Myriam Merlet, in her essay "The More People Dream"
She was a founder of Enfofamn, an organization that raises awareness about women through media, collects stories and works to honor their names. Among her efforts, she set out to get streets named after Haitian women who came before her, Charles said.
Dubbed a "Vagina Warrior," she was remembered Tuesday by her friend Eve Ensler, the award-winning playwright and force behind V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls.
"She was very bold," said Ensler, who at Merlet's insistence brought her play "The Vagina Monologues" to Haiti and helped establish safe houses for women in Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien. "She had an incredible vision of what was possible for Haitian women, and she lifted their spirits. ... And we had such a wonderful time. I remember her dancing in the streets of New Orleans and just being so alive."
Magalie Marcelin, a lawyer and actress who appeared in films and on stage, established Kay Fanm, a women's rights organization that deals with domestic violence, offers services and shelter to women and makes microcredits, or loans, available to women working in markets, said Charles, the chair of Dwa Fanm.
Charles remembered a visit to Haiti about two years ago when Marcelin, believed to be in her mid-50s, called seeking help. Hoping to deflect the political clout of a defendant in court, she asked for women to come out in droves and pack the courtroom. Charles watched as the man on trial was convicted for battering his wife.
Her death has been reported through various media outlets, and was confirmed to CNN by Carribbean Radio Television based in Port-au-Prince. Her own daughter helped dig her body out from rubble in the aftermath of the quake, Charles said she learned when she got the call from Marcelin's cousin.
In an interview last year with the Haitian Times, Marcelin spoke of the image of a drum that adorned public awareness stickers.
"It's very symbolic in the Haitian cultural imagination," Marcelin said, according to the Haitian Times report. "The sound of the drum is the sound of freedom, it's the sound of slaves breaking with slavery."
With Merlet, Anne Marie Coriolan, 53, served as a top adviser to the women's rights ministry.
Coriolan, who died when her boyfriend's home collapsed, was the founder of Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen (Solidarity with Haitian Women, or SOFA), which Charles described as an advocacy and services organization.
Her daughter, Wani Thelusmon Coriolan, said in Haiti children bear only their father's surname, but her mother insisted on keeping her maiden name and making sure her two children shared it, too.
"She said my dad was not the only one who created me. She was involved, too," her 24-year-old daughter, who lives and is studying in Montreal, Quebec, said with a laugh.
Even though Wani and her brother no longer live in Haiti (he is in Paris, France), she said her mother was determined to make sure they were proud of their homeland.
"She loved her country. She never stopped believing in Haiti. She said that when you have a dream you have to fight for it," Wani said. "She wanted women to have equal rights. She wanted women to hold their heads high."
Coriolan was a political organizer who helped bring rape -- "an instrument of terror and war," Charles said -- to the forefront of Haitian courts.
Before 2005, rapes in Haiti were treated as nothing more than "crimes of passion," Charles explained. That changed because of the collective efforts of these women activists -- and others they inspired.
She had an incredible vision of what was possible for Haitian women, and she lifted their spirits.
--Eve Ensler, on her friend Myriam Merlet
  • Haiti
  • Earthquakes
  • Port-au-Prince
With the three leaders gone, there is concern about the future of Haiti's women and girls. Even with all that's been achieved, the struggle for equality and against violence remains enormous.
The chaos that's taken over the devastated nation heightens those worries, said Taina Bien-Aimé, the executive director of Equality Now, a human rights organization dedicated to women.
Before the disaster struck last week, a survey of Haitian women and girls showed an estimated 72 percent had been raped, according to study done by Kay Fanm. And at least 40 percent of the women surveyed were victims of domestic violence, Bien-Aimé said.
And humanitarian emergencies have been linked to increased violence and exploitation in the past, she said.
"From where we stand," Bien-Aimé wrote in an e-mail, "the most critical and urgent issue is what, if any, contingencies the relief/humanitarian agencies are putting in place not only to ensure that women have easy access to food, water and medical care, but to guarantee their protection."
Concerned women in the New York area plan to gather Wednesday to strategize their next steps, Ensler said.
And while they will certainly keep mourning, she and the others are hopeful that Haitian women, inspired by these fallen heros and leaders, will forge ahead -- keeping their fight and legacies alive.