Rwanda is the first nation in the world where women outnumber men in parliament after legislative elections Sept. 18. Women now account for at least 55 percent of the lower chamber in Rwanda, according to provisional results. Previously, they held 48 percent of seats.
"The role of the elected females is double: They must on the one hand concern themselves with the implementation of government decisions, and on the other be a voice for the grassroots," said Bellancilla Nyonawankusi, a Kigali election official.
Female lawmakers earned 20 seats in direct elections, Reuters reported. Another 24 were already secured in an indirect vote. Rwanda now has a higher number of female lawmakers than Sweden, where 47 percent of parliamentarians are women.
This is the second election since the 1994 genocide that cost 800,000 lives. Women have staked a strong role in rebuilding the country under President Paul Kagame's leadership and represent 55 percent of the 4.7 million registered voters.
More News to Cheer This Week:
- In Israel, the ruling Kadima Party narrowly elected Foreign Minister Tzivi Livni as the country's next prime minister in the party's election, the Associated Press reported Sept. 18. Livni has 42 days to form a new ruling coalition. Failure could trigger early elections in 2009. If she succeeds, Livni would become Israel's first female prime minister since Golda Meir stepped down in 1974.
- A coalition of Cambodian women's rights groups called on the government to introduce gender quotas as the kingdom returns decision-making power to the local level, Phnom Pen Post reported Sept. 17. In a letter, Gender and Development for Cambodia and other groups recommended that one woman should be appointed for every two men on local councils, and that if a man is the head of an office, a woman should be appointed as his deputy.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the Gardasil HPV vaccine to protect against vulvar and vaginal cancers on Sept. 12. The vaccine was developed to prevent cervical cancer and genital warts caused by some strains of the human papillomavirus.
- A Melbourne, Australia, bar has been ordered to stop offering $50 drinking vouchers to women who take off their knickers, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Sept. 18. A "No Undie Sundie" event also provided women with free drinks if they flashed the bartenders. A liquor licensing official said the plan was "not in the public interest."
Governments around the world are failing to live up to their commitments to equality for women and must step up their efforts, the United Nations said in a Sept. 18 UNIFEM report released ahead of a meeting next week for world leaders to assess progress on the millennium development goals.
Those goals include improving women's rights, reducing maternal and child deaths, achieving universal education and reducing global poverty. In terms of women's status specifically, the UNIFEM report said matters were urgent and there is an "accountability crisis" in getting governments to keep their promises to women and assessing their records of action. If promises were kept, the world would see better progress in achieving all the development goals.
"Without putting in place strong measures to track progress on gender equality, we run the risk that commitments, such as the millennium development goals, will remain words on paper," UNIFEM executive director Ines Alberdi told the AP.
The report, titled "Who Answers to Women," cites significant gaps for women: They are outnumbered 4-to-1 in legislatures; 60 percent of unpaid family workers are female; women earn 17 percent less than men; one-third of women suffer some form of gender-based violence; and 500,000 women die from childbirth annually, a rate that is shrinking by just 0.4 percent each year.
More News to Jeer This Week:
- A female suicide bomber detonated and killed 22 in Dyala in northern Iraq, Reuters reported Sept. 6. More than two dozen female suicide bombings have been reported this year. Iraq's minister for women's affairs, Nawal al-Samarraie, warned of a "disaster" if more was not done to assert women's rights as militants tap often illiterate women who have lost their relatives in the war.
- The proportion of homeless women and the elderly is increasing in Vancouver according to a city count that found 600 women among the 2,660 homeless people in one night, the Globe and Mail reported Sept. 18. That's a higher percentage of women than a year ago. Older women are especially vulnerable because they are less likely to have pensions and retirement savings than men.
- A Griffith University Violence Research and Prevention Program study found that 20 percent of intimate partner homicides in Australia are committed by women and that abused women who murder their partners often act in "extreme fear and desperation," the Brisbane Times reported Sept. 12. The study showed that over three-quarters of women who killed their husbands were raped by them and 39 percent had been raped more than 20 times.
- Immigrant women in Massachusetts abused by their partners may be too afraid to seek help because of the national debate over immigration and their fears of deportation, the Boston Globe reported Sept. 12. Immigrants are 14 percent of the state's population but are 26 percent of victims in domestic violence murders. Batterers who want help are also less likely to enroll in treatment programs.
- Hook worm infects between a quarter and a third of pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa, Science Daily reported Sept. 18. The parasite lives in the intestine and increases the probabilities of anemia for almost 7 million women, revealed a study from the PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, an open-access journal.
- Google has been forced to accept advertising that attacks abortion rights after a British anti-choice group, the Christian Institute, sued, the Independent reported Sept. 18. Google had a policy banning ads that mixed religion and abortion but the lawsuit argued that was a violation of Britain's Equality Act. As part of the settlement, Google will now accept religious ads that discuss abortion "in a factual way." The policy change takes place worldwide.
- A Ugandan official wants to ban women from wearing miniskirts because they cause accidents by distracted drivers who may be "mentally weak," the BBC reported Sept. 17. Wearing the short skirts is indecent, said Nsaba Butero, Uganda's ethics minister. "These days you hardly know who is a mother from a daughter; they are all naked," Butero said.
- Divorce rates in Kolkata, India, have tripled in two years, the Washington Post reported Sept. 19. As a result of more divorces across the nation, the social stigma is decreasing and even being trumpeted as proof of women's advancement in newspaper headlines: "We Should Celebrate Rising Divorce Rates," one tabloid announced.
- A hotel in Marmaris, Turkey, fired all its male employees after the manager became fed up with how they flirted with female guests, the Turkish Daily News reported Sept. 18. In June, the female boss saw too many male bartenders socializing with foreign women to tolerate. She decided that only women would work at the hotel, picking up jobs normally reserved for men.
Dominique Soguel is Arabic editor and Jennifer Thurston is associate editor of Women's eNews.
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