Women’s rights activists gathered in Morocco June 11 and called on the region’s governments to adopt in full a United Nations resolution that would outlaw discrimination against women, reported the Agence-France Presse.

Some 200 delegates, mostly women from Turkey and 13 Arab states, adopted a resolution at a conference in Rabat urging governments to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, widely regarded as an international women’s bill of rights. Activists criticized the adoption of the convention when there are reservations "that go against the principle of equality and nondiscrimination against women."

More News to Cheer This Week:


  • The United Kingdom has stepped up efforts to train women for the building and construction trades in the lead-up to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the BBC reported June 14. The government proposes spending nearly $37 million to attract women to fields short of skilled workers. The Olympics are expected to generate thousands of new jobs in construction in the next six years.


  • Harvard announced it will spend $7.5 million to subsidize and improve child care services on campus as well as to provide grants to female faculty and staff members, the Boston Globe reported June 13. Lawrence Summers stepped down in February as university president after creating a storm of controversy by suggesting publicly that women were innately inferior to men in science and math abilities. Women hold 8 percent of Harvard’s tenured faculty positions in the natural sciences. The university has previously pledged to spend more than $50 million to recruit and retain women and minorities.


  • A federal jury found that the Suffolk County Police Department in New York state discriminated against pregnant officers by denying them limited-duty and non-patrol positions and preventing them from fully working during their pregnancies. In a June 14 announcement, the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented six plaintiffs in the case, said the decision vindicated the rights of women working in nontraditional jobs.


  • The National Organization for Women will celebrate its 40th birthday next month at a conference in upstate New York. The conference by the Washington-based group will host a young feminist summit and will focus on organizing for the 2006 and 2008 elections.

For more information:

"Maloney Calls for Truth in Clinic Advertising":

Gender Shadow Report to the U.N. Human Rights Committee

U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Women’s Health Breastfeeding Information:

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration rejected a citizen’s petition filed five years ago by a group of 60 health organizations and advocacy groups to allow over-the-counter sales of the emergency contraception pill, Plan B, the agency announced June 9. The FDA said there was insufficient information to support the request and the groups did not have sufficient standing to file the petition.

The agency continues to face a lawsuit brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights, an advocacy group seeking a legal decision requiring emergency contraception to be available without a prescription.

"The FDA’s rejection of our citizen’s petition in the midst of this lawsuit simply confirms what we have believed all along," said the center’s Simon Heller, lead attorney in the case. "The FDA, in the thrall of the Bush administration’s anti-science agenda, has put aside its mission to promote public health in favor of depriving women of easier access to this important drug."

More News to Jeer This Week:


  • The National Abortion Federation in a June 15 study found that "crisis pregnancy centers" use deceptive practices to intimidate women seeking abortions and misuse government funds. Over 4,000 crisis pregnancy centers are operating in the United States, according to the Washington-based group, compared to 2,000 abortion clinics. The federation charges the crisis centers with such practices as opening a storefront near an abortion clinic and giving it a similar name to lure women "at risk" for abortion. In extreme cases, women say they have received pregnancy tests at the centers and informed the results were negative, concealing the pregnancy until it is too late to have an abortion safely. The federation says crisis pregnancy centers are receiving federal tax dollars to subsidize their operations by siphoning funds from abstinence and sex education programs. Crisis centers received an estimated $6 million in 2002. In at least a dozen states, crisis pregnancy centers receive funds through direct allocations, tax credits or "alternatives to abortion" programs.


  • A June 15 report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee identifies the U.S. workplace as "one of the least supportive employment environments for women of any developed nation," according to a coalition of women’s groups, including NOW, Legal Momentum and the National Council of Women’s Organizations. In addition to employment discrimination, the report documents the effects of gender-based discrimination in the U.S. prison system, inadequate anti-violence laws, reproductive rights, health care and immigration.


  • Women’s rights activists and other civil rights groups protested a proposed $4 million cut to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an organization already hobbled by a shrinking staff and budget, the Washington Post reported June 14. The agency faces a backlog of charges of employment discrimination that is expected to grow to more than 47,000 unheard cases in the next fiscal year.



  • Maine Democrat Jean Hay Bright won the right in Tuesday’s primary elections to take on Republican Senator Olympia Snowe in the November midterm election. Another female Mainer, Republican Darlene Curley, won her party’s nod to face a House Democrat, incumbent Michael Michaud, this fall. Virginia was one of three other states that had primary elections on June 13. There, Democrat Judy Feder won the right to take on Republican Frank Wolf for the 10th congressional district.


  • A two-year advertising campaign to promote breastfeeding in the United States culminated this spring with a series of ads that emphasizes the health risks of not breastfeeding, The New York Times reported June 13. The article was the fourth most frequently e-mailed story of the week. Babies that are breastfed have a lower risk of developing some diseases, including diabetes, leukemia and asthma, but the campaign has been criticized by some advocates for placing negative pressures on mothers who either can not or choose not to breastfeed. About 70 percent of U.S. babies are breastfed in infancy, but the rate drops to 33 percent at six months.


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

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