The American Association of University Women, one of the oldest nonprofit organizations dedicated to advocating women’s rights, celebrates its 125th anniversary on Nov. 28. AAUW was founded in 1881 by 17 female college graduates and has more than 100,000 members today, with 1,300 branches and 500 college and university partners.

For years, the Washington-based organization has played a role in the fight for pay equity; a woman’s right to vote; and legislation that protects women at home, in schools and in the workplace. Recently, AAUW’s Legal Advocacy Fund has lent its support to Michael Burch, a plaintiff in a sex-discrimination suit against the Regents of the University of California. In a 2003 Title IX complaint, Burch claimed that UC-Davis barred women from participating in the wrestling program and terminated his contract after he expressed support for the female wrestlers in 2001. The case goes to trial on Dec. 5.

"Our mission is ever relevant and our role still critical even though, fortunately, there has been a great deal accomplished for women and girls since our start in 1881," said Ruth Sweetser, AAUW president, to mark the anniversary.

More News to Cheer This Week:


  • More than 100 leaders in the Islamic feminist movement vowed to create an international shura called the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality, or WISE, in a New York conference, Reuters reported Nov. 20. It is the first women’s council to interpret the Quran and will also work to counter stereotypes that equate Muslims with "terrorists" and identify Islam with the oppression of women.


  • Condom use among African women–who make up 60 percent of HIV-infected adults in sub-Saharan Africa–is increasing, the Associated Press reported Nov. 17. A study published in the British journal Lancet found that condom use more than tripled, from 5.3 percent in 1993 to 18.8 percent in 2001, with a median yearly increase of 1.4 percent.


  • The Sudanese government has ‘agreed in principle’ to the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers in the western region of Darfur, but is stalling over the size of the force, the U.N. announced Nov. 17. At least 200,000 people have been killed in the Darfur conflict and rapes in refugee camps have been widely reported. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the peacekeeping force could lead to "a turning point" in resolving the conflict.

For more information:

American Association of University Women:

"Educational Goals for Girls Remain Unmet":

"Chile Teens’ Sexual Health Sparks Storm":

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Girls make up a majority of the estimated 115 million children who are not attending school around the world and UNICEF is calling on governments and others committed to universal education and gender equality to focus on early childhood care programs. With more child care available, girls are less likely to forgo schooling to care for younger siblings.

"Gender equality must be addressed right from the beginning of life," said UNICEF’s Dr. Rima Salah. "Huge steps can be made to empower girls if we begin the movement for gender equality in those first years of a child’s life."

A survey conducted by UNICEF and several nongovernmental organizations found that Zimbabwe had a high rate of gender disparity in its educational system, with a greater percentage of girls dropping out of school at the primary level. Only one school district in the nation had more girls in primary school because the majority of boys were working on orange plantations.

In a 2005 report, Save the Children, based in Washington, found that 58 million girls around the world are still not in school and, of those who are, 1 in 4 won’t complete fifth grade. That can lead to disparities in literacy rates between males and females; a September survey by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization indicates that in sub-Saharan Africa more than 30 percent of female youth are illiterate while 20 percent of male youth cannot read.

More News to Jeer This Week:


  • Chile’s congress voted 61-21 to reject a bill that would have legalized abortions when the mother’s life was at risk, in cases of rape and until the 12th week of pregnancy, the AP reported Nov. 21. Abortion is illegal in all circumstances in Chile and those performing or receiving abortions face prison terms ranging from 3 to 5 years. The government estimates up to 130,000 illegal abortions are performed every year and 32,000 women end up at hospitals due to complications.


  • The Government Accountability Office has released a congressional report stating that the Health and Human Services Department funded controversial abstinence-only education programs without checking to see whether they reduced teen pregnancy rates, Reuters reported Nov. 17. The report focused on three abstinence programs that received $158 million in federal funding last year.


  • A report from a British police association blames the excessive consumption of alcohol as a factor in sexual assault against women, not the widespread use of date-rape drugs, the BBC reported Nov. 16. In the study, 119 of 120 assault victims admitted they had been drinking alcohol and forensic tests indicated alcohol use in 52 percent of cases. "Alcohol has undoubtedly become the new short skirt in the way that people are looking to put the blame and the onus and the responsibility on women rather than men," said British writer Julie Bindel.


  • The Food and Drug Administration ended its 14-year ban on the cosmetic use of silicone gel-filled breast implants and will allow two manufacturers to market the implants to all women for reconstruction and women 22 and older for augmentation. A 1992 moratorium on silicone implants followed reports of pain, deformity and illness caused by leaks and ruptures. "Women should be outraged by this reckless decision," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization of Women in Washington, in a press release.



  • The controversial book and television special, "If I Did It," by O.J. Simpson was canceled by News Corporation’s Rupert Murdoch. He called the decision to publish the book and broadcast the special interview–in which Simpson detailed how he would have committed the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Simpson, and Ron Goldman if he were guilty of the crime–a mistake. In a Nov. 22 article in the New York Daily News, Denise Brown, Simpson’s sister-in-law, claimed that before the announcement, she and her family refused "millions of dollars" in "hush money" offered by News Corp. senior executives, a claim the media company denied.


  • Out of 1,031 U.S. men and women surveyed, 29 percent said that they would like to have Hillary Rodham Clinton as a guest for Thanksgiving Day dinner, according to a Nov. 17 Lifetime/Redbook poll. Clinton edged out first lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Irene Lew is the editorial intern at Women’s eNews.

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