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Egypt's Women, Nobels, Occupy Protests Are Gifts

Friday, December 23, 2011

Three Nobel Peace Prizes, untold numbers of protestors who are demanding economic justice and the women's march in Cairo are the best gifts of the holiday season, says Rita Henley Jensen, editor in chief and founder of Women's eNews.

(WOMENSENEWS)--The biggest and best gifts I received this holiday season did not come wrapped in colorful paper. Two were a complete surprise. One was something I had wanted for a long time. And I believe you received them too.

I read with joy that thousands of women in Egypt marched on Dec. 20 protesting not only the weekend's brutal beating, stripping and kicking of women in Tahrir Square by military police in riot gear, but also the frequent brutal treatment of women by the military, including "virginity tests" of arrested female protestors.

The women's protest was described as the largest and most significant in Egypt since a 1919 march against British colonial rule. Could this Arab winter protest spark a similar outpouring of women throughout the region demanding to be heard? And maybe spread to the homegrown protests in the United States?

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The Nobel Peace Prize is the second major surprise gift this holiday season. When news first hit that three women received the Nobel Peace Prize, I looked up from my computer and shouted out to no one in particular, "Hey, how come they have to share it?" Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia, Leymah Gbowee, Liberian grassroots organizer, and Tawakkol Karman, Yemeni journalist and human rights activist, each deserved the prize in their own right.

The Nobel committee's press release emphasized their struggle to push for women's rights and to ensure women were part of the peace process. True. However, I believe they saw their actions as the one strategy that might end the armed conflict that was destroying their nations and the accompanying wholesale corruption that enriched the leadership and impoverished the citizens. For them, ensuring women's rights are a means to an end.

By Dec. 10, when the three accepted their prize in Oslo, Norway, I had come to see that the Nobel committee giving three incredible, dedicated and dynamic women the recognition that they deserve was a gift to all of us.

Captured on Video

Women's eNews intern Hajer Naili managed to capture on video Karman's post-announcement press conference on the steps of the United Nations headquarters in New York demanding wholesale change in Yemen. She spoke in Arabic and it was simultaneously translated into English. We quickly posted it on both Women's eNews and Arabic Women's eNews.

And with apparent prescience, Thorbjorn Jagland, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said during the peace prize ceremony: "The promising Arab Spring will become a new winter if women are again left out."

This fall, a loosely organized group set up camp four blocks from the Manhattan offices of Women's eNews and managed to disrupt the dominant U.S. political narrative of benefit cutbacks, lay offs, tax breaks and anti-contraception legislation. Not for one day--but for every day since.

In one clear voice, the demonstrators made a statement that reverberated around the nation and the world: 99 percent of us are not getting a fair share of our nation's wealth. The message has spread throughout our national and global conversations and continues to create new questions about the country's spending and moral priorities.

During the early days of the protest, Naili grabbed a video camera and recorded an interview with one of the female protestors on what it was like to get arrested. Christina Gonzalez's testimony was quickly posted online and proved to be hugely popular.

Other journalists also pursued the story. This video, shot and edited by Meredith Mandell, examines women's roles in the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and why they participated in the protests.

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Thank YOU! I'm only curious where the information on the wage gap is coming from, I find it unfortunate but very interesting how employers can still get away with a clear wage difference among genders.

Samantha, information on pay gaps can be found at the Department of Labor website