A group of Palestinian, Israeli, and international women have come together to form the International Women’s Commission, according to a press release from the United Nations Development Fund for Women on Thursday. The commission is the first effort to enforce a previous U.N. resolution created to increase the number of women in leadership positions.

“Women were able to overcome differences and agree upon what I view to be the most effective and substantive vehicle to bring about the change so urgently needed in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” said Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of the U.N. agency.

The women are working to ensure their total participation in all Palestine-Israel peace negotiations.

Other News to Cheer About This Week:

  • Claiming Roman Catholic Church’s law is unjust, nine women defied the male-only ordination rule and were unofficially ordained as either priests or deacons by three female bishops in Canada, the BBC reported Tuesday. The women felt their actions justified even at the risk of following a 2002 precedent in which a group of women were banished from the Catholic Church for the same actions.LI>

  • A group of seven female Democrats unveiled a Web site encouraging members of the public to pose questions to John Roberts, the judge who has been nominated to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. They called on Roberts to answer questions on a range of issues, including the right to privacy. “Americans expect that their rights will be upheld by the court and that will only happen with a judge who recognizes that right to privacy,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington in a press release.
  • Withholding contraceptive coverage in the Union Pacific railroad’s employee healthcare package has been deemed a violation of the Civil Rights Act in a class-action lawsuit, reported the Boston Globe on Tuesday. The Nebraska judge ruled on the basis that other types of preventative care, as well as impotence medication, were being covered under the plans. Under the Civil Rights Act, companies are not allowed to discriminate based on pregnancy or gender.
  • A group of female future-aviators in China will be trained to become the nation’s first group of female astronauts, reported Xinhua News on Wednesday. By 2010, the group is expected to have its first space mission.
  • A move by the Alaska State Medical Board that would add barriers to women’s access to emergency contraception is being re-considered. The Anchorage Daily News reported on Saturday that the board will allow more time for public comment. Currently women do not need a prescription to receive the “morning after pill” from a pharmacist. If the medical board’s proposition is passed, women will be required to have a physical examination before obtaining the medication.
  • Ohio’s League of Women Voters, allied with other Ohio citizens, has filed a lawsuit against the state, reported Business Wire on Thursday. Claiming that Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell have failed to protect the rights of voter’s intentions as well as meet provisions of the Help America Vote Act.

    “The Ohio voting system is so riddled with incompetence and inequity that many of those who did persevere and cast a ballot were disenfranchised nonetheless by machines that simply did not work and by poll workers who routinely gave erroneous instructions that invalidated the voters’ ballots altogether,” said the League’s complaint. The group hopes to make future elections fairer.

  • Three hundred twenty-eight Afghan women are planning to run for the 68 women-reserved seats in the nation’s parliament despite death threats, reported the Washington Post on Friday. One of the candidates, journalist Noorzia Charkhi, recognizes that her and her family’s lives are in danger, but says, “I’m not going to quit, because I want to show people that a woman should be able to do these things.” Also, despite a ban on women’s participation in local councils, a group of 170 Pakistani women plan to stand in upcoming elections, reported Reuters on Thursday. The women applied after the central government deemed the local conservative officials’ imposed ban unconstitutional. The ban denies women the right to run and vote in the elections of two rural regions.
  • Businesses owned by women grew at a faster clip than the national average, according to a survey released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of all businesses nationwide increased by 10 percent between 1997 and 2002, but those owned by women jumped by 20 percent, the study showed.
  • Businesswomen in Saudi Arabia are being permitted, for the first time, to vote in upcoming chamber of trade and industry board elections, reported the Middle East Times on Friday.
  • A survey with 504 respondents found that the majority of female physicians, residents, medical students and pre-med students are happy in their careers, reported a press release on Friday. While the overall results were positive, the survey cited problems women in the medical profession face with regard to gender and parental discrimination and, of most concern, balancing family and work responsibilities.
  • An initiative to improve the living conditions of rural Indian women has been announced by the Ministry of Rural Development on Friday. The program will reserve 30 percent of employment opportunities for women.
  • The Senate passed on Thursday legislation that would create the first-ever national registry of sex offenders, according to a statement released by Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat who authored the bill. The legislation would require scrutiny of high-risk violent sex offenders after they are released from custody and would give local prosecutors tools to institutionalize high risk offenders after completion of their prison terms. The bill awaits action in the House.
  • A bipartisan group of 40 lawmakers sent a letter to President Bush expressing support for equal rights for Iraqi women, according to a statement released Thursday by Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat. The letter was prompted by fears that standards for gender equity are being weakened as the country writes its new constitution.
  • The female condom will be introduced in India as an effort to prevent HIV and AIDS, reported Independent Online on Friday. The condoms are to be available later this year and will be sold at lower cost to commercial sex workers. Chandrasekhar Gowda, director of a nongovernmental sex worker advocacy organization, says that, “the female condom will give women a choice. She will no longer be dependent on the man’s decision.”
  • Rosie’s Girls, a new Cleveland summer camp, is dedicated to involving girls in traditionally male-dominated activities, reported the Plain dealer on Friday. Welding, carpentry and bike repair are on the nonprofit Hard Hatted Women’s camp agenda.


Lack of law enforcement is to blame for failures in protecting victims of domestic violence, according to a new report by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, released Tuesday.

The two-year study found that the California justice system has been short-changing abused women, in part, by not issuing or enforcing restraining orders; neglecting firearm seizure from perpetrators; not monitoring court-mandated programs for perpetrators, who often never attend or complete the programs. “System fatigue is not an excuse for domestic abuse. We are going to shift a culture of complacency into a culture of compliance,” said the attorney general.

Lockyer’s report recommends changes that would enforce existing policies and create new legislation to help protect domestic violence victims.

Other News to Jeer This Week:

  • Forced marriage has been identified as the primary source of violence against women in Afghanistan, according to a new report by the special rapporteur on violence against women, Yakin Erturk, reported Radio Free Europe on Tuesday. The U.N. representative observed that as many as 60 to 80 percent of marriages are forced upon women and girls.
  • If new legislation is passed by Wisconsin’s state senate, the University of Wisconsin will ban birth control and emergency contraceptive prescription, advertisement and dispersion on campus, reported The Badger Herald, a Madison-based newspaper. State Rep. Dan LeMahieu, a Republican, drafted the legislation in an attempt to halt what he views as an endorsement of “promiscuity,” caused by the drug’s availability and advertisement, reported the Minnesota Daily this week. The bill passed the state assembly in June and is up for a senate vote in September.
  • Worried about the effects of TV star Jennifer Garner’s pregnancy on the sex appeal of her show “Alias,” producers are introducing a new cast member, reported The Associated Press on Wednesday. The reportedly younger and un-pregnant new character will play Garner’s protege.
  • Many Latina pregnant women and Latina mothers living in the Salinas Valley, the California’s center of agri-business, are reported to be living in unhealthy conditions. Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley reported Wednesday that they found many Latinas’ homes to be in states of disrepair that increased the likelihood of infestation of insects and rodent–all of which increase the exposure to pesticides and allergens.
  • In an HIV prevention effort, Ugandan women’s provable virginity is being rewarded with a free university education, reported BBC News on Wednesday. While Uganda is a leader in declining AIDS rates, some critics expect the new abstinence-only education policy to have a negative effect.
  • Silicone gel-filled breast implants came one step closer to federal approval Thursday, when the Food and Drug Administration laid out a set of conditions that must be met before they can be marketed, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. That angered the National Organization for Women. President Kim Gandy said the implants are dangerous and that the FDA would have no way of ensuring companies meet the requirements.

  • House Small Business Committee Chair Donald Manzullo, a Republican from Illinois, said Monday that pharmacists should not be “forced to choose between their business and their beliefs” when asked to fill prescriptions for birth control, according to a press release issued by his office. He held a hearing on the issue Monday, in which he explored penalties to pharmacists, such as fines, revocation of licenses and loss of businesses.
  • In the wee hours of Thursday, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would ease trade restrictions between the United States and countries in Central America morning, according to The Associated Press. The National Organization for Women has condemned the bill, saying in a release it would undermine the safety, economic health and livelihood of women and other low-income workers and farmers in Central America and the Dominican Republican. The bill passed the Senate last month.

–Allison Stevens and Rebecca Vesely contributed to this report.

Rachel Corbett is a Women’s eNews intern and freelance writer based in New York City. Allison Stevens is Washington Bureau Chief at Women’s eNews and Rebecca Vesely is a frequent contributor to Women’s eNews, reporting from California’s Bay Area.