The United Nations has launched a $44 million program to reduce female genital mutilation by 40 percent by 2015, the Inter Press Service reported Feb. 12.

Ghana, Uganda, Morocco and Eritrea have passed laws banning female genital mutilation. In Nigeria, 11 of 36 states have introduced legislation against it. Egypt and Yemen have banned health-care professionals from performing the procedure.

Legal measures, the United Nations says, need to be coupled with culturally sensitive education and greater public awareness of the health costs–including increased complications during childbirth–linked to female genital mutilation.

Between 100 million and 140 million girls and women in over 28 countries have been cut, according to the World Health Organization. Every year, about 3 million girls and women undergo the procedure.

In a separate initiative, the United Nations Population Fund aims to raise $456 million between 2008 and 2011 to reduce maternal mortality rates in 75 countries. Half a million women die every year due to complications in pregnancy or delivery, and 10 to 15 million suffer long-lasting illnesses or injuries.

The fundraising effort comes after an intensive push by the international body to address high maternal mortality rates in the developing world after an announcement last year that international efforts were falling short in meeting goals set in 2000 to improve women’s health.

More News to Cheer This Week:


  • The federal Family Medical Leave Act has been expanded to allow family members or military personnel who have been severely injured or recently deployed to take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave, the Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 14. The law allows all workers to take up to 12 weeks off from their jobs to care for themselves, children or family members.


  • Parvin Ardalan, a vital force in the struggle for women’s rights in Iran, will be recognized with the Olof Palme Prize for international understanding and common security in March. Ardalan is one of the founding members of the One Million Signatures Campaign, which calls for an end to discriminatory laws against women in Iran, including men’s uncontested right to divorce, polygamy and child custody.


  • Pakistani senators called for reforms to boost the performance of a currently short-staffed and underfunded Ministry of Women Development, the Pakistan Daily Times reported Feb. 12. The ministry is charged with improving the social, educational and economic status of women. Pakistan ranks 82nd of 93 countries evaluated in the U.N.’s 2007 Gender Empowerment Measures index. In Pakistan’s Feb. 18 elections 70 seats in the 342-seat National Assembly are reserved for women and non-Muslims.


  • Ten Nepali women from different castes are coming together to conquer 29,029-foot Mount Everest, the Agence France Presse reported Feb. 14. The First Inclusive Women Sagarmantha Expedition 2008 will monitor the effects of climate change in the Himalayas. In the United States, breast cancer survivors and supporters are preparing to ascend the 14,162-foot Mount Shasta in Northern California. The June 15-21 climb is sponsored by the Breast Cancer Fund.


  • A new "transdermal" form of birth control may offer women an alternative to traditional contraceptive methods, the Australian reported Feb 9. Researchers in Australia are working on a hormonal contraceptive that women can spray on to their arm to prevent pregnancy. The odorless spray also conveniently includes sunscreen. Results from testing are expected mid-year.


Japanese authorities arrested a U.S. marine posted on Okinawa and accused him of raping a 14-year-old girl, the BBC reported Feb. 11. Sgt. Tyrone Luther Hadnott denied the rape charge but admitted to forcibly kissing the girl.

"This is a serious crime that contravenes a woman’s rights and should not be forgiven," said the island’s governor, Kirokazu Nakaima. The Japanese government asked U.S. officials to increase discipline among the 50,000 troops that are posted there.

Three days later, four other marines were formally charged by U.S. military authorities in the rape of a 19-year-old woman that occurred last October, the International Herald Tribune reported.

The cases are the latest involving U.S. military servicemen and accusations of rape that have inflamed tensions between the two nations. Protests erupted over the 1995 rape of a schoolgirl by three servicemen, and protests also occurred in 2006 after a U.S. civilian military employee was convicted of raping two women.

More News to Jeer This Week:


  • After examining 343 Web pages on health sites, researchers at the University of Texas found that 5.2 percent of sites that provided breast cancer information had inaccuracies, Reuters reported Feb 11. They noted that sites who offered complementary and alternative medicine were 15 times more likely to contain false or misleading health information. Despite this, breast cancer sites are more accurate overall than other health information sites.


  • In separate cases, two Namibian women claim to have been sterilized without their consent because of their HIV-positive status, the Windhoek New Era reported Feb 12. One woman said a nurse refused to provide an abortion if she declined sterilization. HIV-positive women in this region are demanding that policymakers stop the violation of women’s reproductive rights.


  • Female teens now equal or outpace male teens in alcohol consumption, drug use and smoking, the Washington Post reported Feb 10. Drawing on 2006 survey data, Columbia University researchers found female teens between the ages of 12 and 17 were at equal or higher risk of substance abuse compared with boys and the increase in drug usage among girls comes at a time when overall numbers for teen drug abuse are on the decline.


  • High-level conversations between China’s Chairman Mao Zedong and former U.S. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger in 1973 turned to the subject of China’s women, according to documents released this week by the U.S. State Department. Mao offered to send as many as 10 million women to the United States, complaining that there was an "excess" of them in China. "By doing so we can let them flood your country with disaster and therefore impair your interests," Mao said. "It is such a novel proposition, we will have to study it," Kissinger replied. He later agreed that the references be removed from the official transcripts.


  • The Seattle Times refused to run an ad from the National Council of Jewish Women promoting a fundraiser performance of Eve Ensler’s "Vagina Monologues," the Seattle Weekly reported Feb. 11. The ad featured a vagina illustration in the shape of a heart, which has also been hung in a Bellevue, Wash., synagogue to raise awareness about violence against women.


On Feb. 11, the American Association of University Women released its scorecard for the 110th Congress, which tracks the voting records of lawmakers, including the 89 who are female, on major women’s policy issues. The 110th Congress raised the minimum wage, increased student aid and reauthorized Head Start. Overall, more than half of Congress voted to support AAUW’s issues more than 80 percent of the time. Congress failed to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and other advances for women were impeded by the threat of presidential veto and Supreme Court decisions, according to the Washington-based advocacy group.

Shanelle Matthews is a Women’s eNews intern and a recent graduate of the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. Dominique Soguel is Women’s eNews Arabic editor.

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

For more information:

AAUW, Congressional Voting Record:

One Million Signature Campaign:

Eve Ensler’s V-Day:

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