Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became Africa's first elected woman president after winning Liberia's presidential election Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. She declared victory Thursday night, despite claims from her opponent, George Weah, that her campaign stuffed ballot boxes and tainted the election results. Election monitors have found no signs of fraud.
Johnson-Sirleaf received 59 percent of the tally to Weah's 41 percent with 97 percent of the vote counted in the first election Liberia has held since the end of its 14-year civil war. Johnson-Sirleaf told the BBC Friday that she would still offer Weah a position in her government after the election dispute is settled, adding that his background as a soccer star and his popularity with Liberia's youth are valuable political assets. Before the election, the new president-elect told Women's eNews her victory would benefit women across the African continent by opening the doors of leadership to all.
Other News to Cheer This Week:
- Women's rights advocates scored a major victory Tuesday when California voters rejected a ballot initiative to require physicians to notify parents of minors at least 48 hours before performing an abortion. In January, a record 22 women will hold seats in the New Jersey state Legislature and a record 23 women will serve in the Virginia state Legislature. Election Day was a mixed bag, however. Among the five female mayoral candidates who stood for election in major cities this year, all but one--Atlanta's incumbent mayor Shirley Franklin--went down in defeat. Leslie Byrne also lost her race for lieutenant governor in Virginia.
- Islamic leaders called for an end to traditional cultural practices that harm women and girls Tuesday at a conference in Rabat, Morocco, according to the United Nations. Over 50 government leaders and representatives from over 20 organizations at the First Islamic Ministerial Conference on the Child issued a declaration to end practices that are often wrongly associated with Islam. Such practices include female genital mutilation, child marriage and gender discrimination in education. The attendees also agreed on the need to address the high maternal and child mortality rates found in parts of the Islamic world and urged governments, financial institutions and the private sector to help effect meaningful change.
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"Liberian Becomes Africa's First Elected Female Prez":
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An amendment to fund an investigation of the Food and Drug Administration's delay in approving Plan B emergency contraception for over-the-counter sales was withdrawn last week by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash, the trade newsletter FDA Week reported. Murray's action came after Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn proposed an investigation into the Clinton-era approval of the abortion pill RU-486. Coburn's office suggested that Murray withdrew her proposal for fear of a vote on both amendments.
"There is a huge difference between RU-486 and Plan B," Murray's spokesperson responded. "They are not the same drug and they don't do the same thing. Coburn was trying to muddle them and this is not fair to the health community and not fair to women around the country."
On Thursday, House Republicans postponed a vote on the $51 billion-spending cut bill--which originally included the Murray and Coburn amendments--after it became clear that divisiveness within its own party would prevent the bill from passing, the Los Angeles Times reported. Proposed cuts could affect child support enforcement programs, food stamps, child care subsidies and Medicaid benefits.
Other News to Jeer This Week:
- The Target Corporation is the latest chain to earn the ire of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which criticizes the retail giant for allowing its pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception. On Sept. 30, a Target pharmacist in Fenton, Mo., refused to fill a Plan B prescription, but Target spokesperson Lena Michaud says the company's policy is in line with recommendations from the American Pharmacists Association and refusals are a "rare occurrence." Target, Wal-Mart and Rite-Aid have policies allowing pharmacists to decline prescriptions, while Kmart, CVS and Costco do not.
- A majority of the world's banks have few women on governing boards of directors, according to a study from Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Women Directors International. Just 10.3 percent of board members in the world's 50 top banks are women. In the U.S. the number is 12.2 percent at the top 100 banks. The world's largest bank, Switzerland-based UBS, currently has no female directors. In contrast, Golden West Financial Corp., a bank that operates mostly in the Western United States, has five women on its board of directors, a majority.
- Chlamydia increased by almost 6 percent in the United States during 2004, and the rate of diagnosis among women was three times higher than men, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Women ages 15 to 24 had the highest rates among women and African American women were diagnosed at a rate more than seven times higher than whites. If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility, according to the CDC.
- Negative body image may be the culprit of women's weakening sexual desire as they age, Reuters reported. Researchers from Pennsylvania State University found that among the 307 women they studied, the less attractive a woman felt the more likely her sexual activity or desire had declined over the past 10 years. Almost 21 percent of the women were unable to find any of their features attractive and reported general dissatisfaction with their bodies.
A Tokyo underwear manufacturer announced that Japanese women can stay warm this winter by wearing its new Warm Biz Bra, named after a government campaign to encourage energy savings, the Associated Press reported. The bra features removable pads that can be heated in the microwave or in warm water and has long furry straps that double as a scarf. Matching shorts are available.
-- Allison Stevens contributed to this report.
Karen James is a Women's eNews intern and master's candidate at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief for Women's eNews.
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