Cheers and Jeers



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Three women and a couple won the 2008 Right Livelihood Awards on Oct. 1. The award honors independent journalism, economic balance, peace-building, social justice and eradication of poverty and is also known as the “Alternative Nobel.” The award is given by the Right Livelihood Awards Foundation.

U.S. journalist Amy Goodman, founder and host of the radio and TV program “Democracy Now,” was honored for her independent political journalism that offers space to unpopular voices and the opportunity for millions of people to hear them.

Somalian activist Asha Hagi, the co-founder of Save Somali Women and Children, was rewarded for her effort to mobilize women in the decision-making and clan-based mediations of her war-ravaged nation.

German gynecologist Monika Hauser, founder of Medica Mondiale, was recognized for her commitment to seek punishment and compensation for women who are sexually abused in wartime.

Married Indian activists Krishnammal and Sankaralingam Jagannathan founded the social justice group Land for the Tillers’ Freedom. They were honored for carrying the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi by working on human sustainability issues for landless people in India.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund endorsed 100 openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political candidates in 2008. The political action committee says it is a record year for the number of LGBT candidates running for all levels of political office.
  • The case of an abused woman who was denied asylum was sent back to an immigration appeals board by U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, the New York Times reported Sept. 29. The action is a further step in developing national standards for asylum of female victims of domestic violence. Mukasey vacated a similar asylum decision the week before to a woman who sought asylum to avoid female genital mutilation.
  • Indra Nooyi, chair and CEO of PepsiCo, takes the No. 1 spot in Fortune’s list of the 50 most powerful women published in for-profit companies in its Oct. 13 issue.
  • The Debbie Smith Act, the law authorizing funding to reduce the DNA-testing backlog in rape cases, was reauthorized Sept. 29, announced the office of Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y. “Every unprocessed rape kit represents a victim who has been denied justice,” said Maloney, who sponsored the bill. “DNA evidence puts rapists behind bars.”
  • The Cleveland-based Future Church is lobbying for returning passages referring to women to the Catholic lectionary, a collection of biblical passages selected by the church. The group is asking Catholic leaders to invite female biblical scholars to an Oct. 5 synod in Rome. The Future Church argues that women’s relevance in Catholic teachings have been historically overlooked or deleted.
  • The Feminist Political Education Project has demanded an equal share of power by 2015 in Zimbabwe, the Inter Press Service reported Sept. 29. The women’s rights group made its demands a few days after the country’s main political parties signed a power-sharing agreement. Only one of eight negotiators was female.


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Free condoms delivered through programs run by Marie Stopes International have been “seriously disrupted” in Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe after the U.S. Agency for International Development invoked the 1985 Kemp-Kasten Amendment to end deliveries of condoms to the British family planning organization.

In an Oct. 1 statement Marie Stopes chief Dana Hovig said the aid was cut off because the group works in China, whose government USAID accuses of engaging in forced abortions. The 1985 amendment has been invoked to deny funding to the U.N. Population Fund, which also works in China, since 2002, but this is the first time it has been invoked to bar funding to any other group.

Hovig called the cut-off “purely political and dangerous to the lives of women” since women in the six African nations will be left with few options other than dangerous, illegal abortions. In 2007, Marie Stopes’ aid work helped prevent 12.5 million unintended pregnancies.

The U.S. government is also threatening to withhold $262 million in funding from California state programs that provide contraceptive services, prenatal care to pregnant women and testing for sexually transmitted diseases to 1.7 million low-income people, the Los Angeles Times reported Oct. 3. The Bush administration wants the state to change its method for counting the number of undocumented immigrants who use the programs because they are prohibited from receiving assistance as a matter of federal policy.

The state says the programs save taxpayers $1.4 billion annually by preventing 170,000 unintended pregnancies each year.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Malalai Kakar, a high-profile female police captain, was shot and killed by the Taliban on Sept. 28 in Afghanistan, the International Herald Tribune reported. Kakar was an advocate for greater freedom for Afghan women and led the unit that investigates crimes against women for the Kandahar police. She was the mother of six.
  • Republican legislators in Utah plan to sponsor state legislation banning abortions in nearly all cases, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Oct. 1. The ban would allow exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the woman. The coalition says the proposed bill will serve as a challenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision and said an unidentified Washington-based organization would bear the costs of defending the legislation in courts.
  • John LaBruzzo, a Republican state representative from Louisiana, is studying a proposal to pay low-income women $1,000 to have their tubes tied as an anti-poverty measure, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Sept. 24. LaBruzzo told the newspaper that he worried people who receive food stamps and subsidized housing have higher birth rates than more affluent people, contributing to higher costs for social welfare programs. That belief has been widely discredited.
  • Over 400 delegates from 42 countries at the International Conference on Gender, Migration and Development issued a call to address gender equality for female migrants, the Inter Press Service reported Sept. 26. The call to protect the rights of migrant women comes ahead of a global conference in the Philippines that convenes global leaders on Oct. 22 to discuss international migration and the impact of illegal recruitment, trafficking, undocumented work, violence and abuse.
  • Zulus “eagerly defy” a year-old South African government ban on “virginity testing,” in which girls under 16 present themselves to tribal leaders to have their genitals inspected, the Washington Post reported Sept. 26. Supporters of the traditional practice say it helps prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Opponents say it stigmatizes those who fail the test and puts others at risk for rape. In a region devastated by AIDS, some believe that men can be cured if they have sex with a virgin.

In Memoriam:

A witty, generous force for women in journalism passed from the scene Sept. 29. Former Newswomen’s Club of New York president Joan O’Sullivan died at 82 in her Manhattan home of cancer. O’Sullivan’s career began as a copy girl at the New York Sun in 1943. She retired as a senior editor for King Features Syndicate in 1988. At the club, with headquarters on Manhattan’s Gramercy Square, O’Sullivan oversaw the Anne O’Hare McCormick Memorial Fund, which presents annual scholarships to female students from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. In addition, she was the living link between the days when Eleanor Roosevelt was a club member and newswomen were a rarity, to the 1970s when thousands of women entered the profession to today, when the news media itself is undergoing dramatic changes. Through it all, she gave unsparingly of her time, understanding and encouragement. She was also known to give a bit of her own cash to a reporter between jobs.

Iulia Anghelescu is editorial intern, Jennifer Thurston is associate editor and Rita Henley Jensen is editor in chief of Women’s eNews.

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