States Fight Poverty; Pentagon Squelches Testimony

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(WOMENSENEWS)–

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Cheers

States are mounting comprehensive campaigns to help the poor, a majority of whom are women. At least 15 states and the District of Columbia have created bipartisan commissions to help low-income people find stable jobs with livable wages, Stateline.org reported Aug. 7. The states are examining proposals to eliminate barriers to wealth in areas of education, public transportation and inadequate and unaffordable child care.

U.S. women are more worried that they won’t be able to make ends meet, according to a poll released Wednesday by the National Women’s Law Center. Nearly 60 percent of women–versus 46 percent of male respondents–said they were worried about economic security.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Pro-choice Republican Lynn Jenkins narrowly defeated opponent Jim Ryun in an Aug. 5 primary race for a congressional seat representing Kansas. Jenkins faces incumbent Democrat Nancy Boyda in the general election.

  • A 51-page draft of the Democratic Party platform to be reviewed by party officials next week includes the following section: “Demeaning portrayals of women cheapen our debates, dampen the dreams of our daughters, and deny us the contributions of too many. Responsibility lies with us.” An Aug. 8 article in the Los Angeles Times credits the language to the lobbying efforts of Women Count, a political action committee formed in May to fight bow-out pressures on Sen. Hillary Clinton’s bid for the party’s nomination.

  • In an Aug. 4 interview with the Financial Times, women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem expressed anger at some of the public enthusiasm offered to Clinton after she bowed out of the race. “You approve of women when they allow themselves to be dominated and not when they don’t. It’s the way you perpetuate a male-dominant society.”

  • AIDS Free World, a Boston-based international advocacy group, announced that it will send a team of lawyers to Zimbabwe to investigate the use of mass sexual violence as a political weapon, Voice of America reported Aug. 7.

  • Nawal El Moutawakel of Morocco, the first woman from a Muslim nation to win an Olympic gold medal, was elected to a seat on the executive board of the International Olympic Committee on Aug. 7, the International Herald Tribune reported.

  • The number of Egyptian girls whose genitals are mutilated is steadily dropping, the Associated Press reported Aug. 4. Egypt criminalized female genital mutilation in 2007 and anti-FGM activists have been campaigning one-on-one to discourage the practice. About 96 percent of married Egyptian women have been cut. A recent study estimates 63 percent of girls currently under age 9 will be cut over the next decade.

  • Nepal’s largest beauty pageant has been “indefinitely postponed” following pressure from women’s rights activists and Maoist officials, South Asia News reported Aug. 7. The Dabur Batika Miss Nepal 2008 pageant was opposed as “anti-women activities inspired by capitalist elements.”

  • Before adjourning for summer recess last week, congressional lawmakers introduced legislation that would allow welfare recipients to spend 24 months in school–as opposed to the current 12 months–while still qualifying for full work benefits.

  • In October the International Women’s Media Foundation will award its 2008 Courage in Journalism Award to Aye Aye Win, AP correspondent in Mynamar; Farida Nekzad, a threatened journalist in Afghanistan; and Sevgul Uludag, a reporter for both Greek and Turkish newspapers in Cyprus. Edith Lederer, the AP’s chief correspondent to the United Nations and the first female reporter to be resident in Vietnam during the war there, will receive the foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jeers

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The prevalence of rape and sexual assault against women in the armed forces was highlighted in congressional hearings on July 31.

Kaye Whitley, director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, was prevented from testifying by Michael Dominguez, a Defense Department deputy undersecretary, RH Reality Check reported Aug. 5.

Retired Army Col. Ann Wright, in a column posted on political blog TruthDig, said that Whitley was going to be asked why the Defense Department took three years to seat a 15-member civilian task force to investigate sexual assault matters. The panel was formed earlier this year but has not met yet.

Separately, ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalist unit, analyzed on Aug. 4 a preliminary report from the General Accounting Office based on interviews with 3,900 service members that says new training measures implemented by the military to prevent sexual assaults aren’t working. At some bases, 43 percent of people who took the training procedures still did not know how to report an assault, the study found.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s now-defunct Security Service infiltrated meetings of women’s liberation groups–along with trade unions and student associations–during the Cold War era to evaluate potential threats from “left-wing subversives,” declassified documents show, the CBC reported Aug. 4. Folk singer Rita MacNeil, who was a married mother of two when she was monitored, said she was “flabbergasted” by the revelation. “What’s radical about equal pay for equal work? And trying to empower women to reach the potential that they have?”

  • The Mexico City office of the Women’s Communication and Information group, known as CIMAC, was ransacked in late July. Journalists who work for the organization suspect retaliation for their work covering women’s rights and human rights over the past 20 years. Investigative documents were stolen as well as computers and equipment used to produce news reports, according to an alert from Radio Internacional Feminista.

  • A Cambridge University survey finds public support for working mothers falling, with more people in Britain agreeing that a woman’s place is in the home, the BBC reported Aug. 6. In 1998, 51 percent of women and 46 percent of men said family life did not suffer when mothers worked. In 2002 those figures fell to 46 percent of women and 42 percent of men.

  • A fertility drug prescribed to millions of women was found ineffective in a Scottish study published in the British Medical Journal on Aug. 8, Agence France-Presse reported. The drug was sold under brand names Clomid and Serophene. “As a direct result of the lack of evidence, many couples with unexplained infertility endure–and even request–expensive, potentially hazardous, and often unnecessary treatments,” British health officials wrote in a commentary accompanying the study.

  • A Russian judge dismissed a sexual harassment suit filed by a female executive because her harasser behaved “gallantly,” the London Telegraph reported July 30. “If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children,” the judge ruled.

Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief and Jennifer Thurston is associate editor of Women’s eNews.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org.




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