The presidency is attracting more of the world’s women.

India’s Pratibha Patil is running for president in the world’s largest democracy. Appearing at a massive women’s rally in Chennai, she said that women, “the backbone of every home,” were significantly supporting the progress and development of the nation, the Times of India reported July 1. If elected as expected on July 19, Patil will be India’s first female president, a ceremonial yet still powerful post.

South Korea’s Han Myung-sook, a lawmaker with the pro-government Uri Party and the first woman to serve as prime minister, announced her candidacy for the presidency, the International Herald Tribune reported June 18. Han promotes economic cooperation with North Korea as a way to help South Korean companies, sandwiched between advanced and developing nations, compete. Han is considered a minor candidate in Korea’s presidential field, with less than 10 percent in polls.

In Argentina, President Nestor Kirchner evoked memories of Evita Peron by announcing that he would not run for another term and naming his wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, as his replacement in the October election, the Economist reported July 2. Early polls indicated she will lead a field of candidates that also includes Elisa Carrio, a congresswoman from an opposition party.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski surprised her “Morning Joe” co-anchors, producers and viewers June 26 when she refused on air to read a story about celebrity Paris Hilton because it was not newsworthy enough to lead the newscast. Brzezinski said a story from Iraq was more important and first ripped the script by hand, then attempted to burn it, then finally put it in the shredder. “We need to have an open discussion about what is news and what is not,” she said.
  • The first shelter in Vietnam to aid women and children afflicted by domestic violence and human trafficking has opened, Viet Nam News reported June 29. A four-day training course for police and other government workers has also been established to raise awareness.
  • United Arab Emirates investment firm Forsa is eager to target the largely ignored market of rich Gulf Arab women–who hold more than $40 billion of the region’s wealth–with the start of a $68 million investment fund for women only, Reuters reported July 3. Shamsa Noor Ali Rashid, Forsa CEO, said the firm hopes to change traditional attitudes about female entrepreneurs and to enhance the management capacity of Arab women.
  • New Hampshire became the first state in the nation to repeal a law that requires minors to obtain parental consent before having an abortion, the Associated Press reported June 29. The law was not in effect because it was being challenged in state courts.

For more information:

Mika Brzezinski at Women’s eNews 21 Leaders for the 21st Century

YWCA, International Women’s Summit:

Anita Borg Institute on Women and Technology, Research:

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Women currently make up 48 percent of global HIV cases, and 60 percent of cases in sub-Saharan Africa, where 3 of 4 infected youths are female, Xinhua news agency reported July 5.

Placing more women in leadership roles in global HIV prevention programs is key to effectively combat the spread of the virus, concluded United Nations officials at the 2007 International Women’s Summit on HIV and AIDS in Nairobi, Kenya.

The July 1-11 conference, organized by the World YWCA, is the first international event to focus on women and AIDS and gathered more than 1,500 AIDS policymakers, global leaders, community health workers, celebrities and advocates.

World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan and Peter Piot, UNAIDS executive director, stressed the importance of prevention and early detection. Progress has been made in terms of treatment, but prevention efforts–such as access to female condoms–are still lacking, Piot told Xinhua.

Chan and Mwai Kibaki, president of Kenya, both indicated that the lack of women’s rights and gender inequality is a contributing factor in the spread of the disease. Chan noted that poverty and intimate partner violence fuel the pandemic. Kibaki, however, said governments must first deal with how society casts women as subordinates.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • The Houston-based firm, KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton and a contractor for the U.S. government in Iraq, is facing a lawsuit from four women who charge that they were sexually harassed by co-workers, Reuters reported June 29. Two of the women say they were raped by co-workers; one woman said she needed surgery after she was drugged and gang raped. KBR said its employees are trained in sexual harassment issues but declined to discuss the case.

  • The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the government’s banking insurance agency, is investigating the misconduct of several of their top officials at an event promoted in the workplace. The employees reportedly took the day off to visit Penderbrook Golf Club in Fairfax, Va., got drunk and had two female golf course employees provide lap dances. The men also tipped the women $10 to remove their blouses, the Examiner.com Web site reported June 30.

  • Sajani Shakya–a 10-year-old Nepalese girl worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists as one of the three most highly-revered Kumaris–lost her distinction as a “living goddess” because she went to the United States to promote a documentary film, the BBC reported July 3. Kumaris are chosen as toddlers to attend festivals and bless devotees; most leave their palace a few times a year, but the top few are forbidden to travel.

  • Title IX, which bars sex discrimination at federally funded institutions, has increased the number of female athletes and teams in the past 35 years, but the percentage of women coaching women’s teams is at its lowest point ever, the Associated Press concluded in a review of statistics. In 1972, when Title IX was passed, 90 percent of women’s teams were coached by women; in 2006, the figure fell to 42 percent.

  • A multi-year study from Stanford University’s business school found that, among high-technology startups, only 4 percent had women in senior technical positions and 10 percent had a female CEO, president or founder. Women filled 94 percent of clerical positions at the 186 firms included in the study. When women held senior roles, however, researchers reported a significant increase in other women in high positions at those firms.

  • Half of England’s and Wales’ 32 rape crisis centers may be closed in the next year due to governmental delays in allocating funds, the Guardian reported July 3. The centers provide support for 80,000 rape victims annually. Other services such as self-help groups, in-person and phone counseling, and Asian and youth outreach also face cuts.

  • Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh said that a court has sentenced her 24-year-old client, Delaram Ali, to nearly three years in jail and 10 lashes for attending a peaceful rally in June 2006, Reuters reported July 3. Ali was convicted of participating in an illegal gathering, propaganda activities against the system and disrupting public order and peace. On July 5, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded to criticism that Iran’s crackdown on women has been too harsh by signaling that some Islamic laws relating to women could be reinterpreted, the AP reported.

Jacqueline Lee is a Los Angeles-based reporter interning with Women’s eNews and Nouhad Moawad is managing editor of Arabic Women’s eNews.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at [email protected].