cheers and jeers



thumb pointing up

The economic, political and educational gender gaps have shrunk globally, with equality between women and men improving in more than two-thirds of 130 countries analyzed in the annual Global Gender Gap Index. The Nov. 12 index was released by the World Economic Forum, a Geneva-based development think tank.

Worldwide, women’s health and life expectancy, however, keep worsening.

The report measures the size of the gender gap in four critical areas of inequality between men and women, including economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political representation, and health and survival.

The United States–ranked 27th overall–made progress in politics, hitting a record for the number of women in political decision-making positions. The gender wage gap is still strong, with women’s estimated average annual earnings at $25,000 and $40,000 for men.

Scandinavian countries (Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland) were ranked best in terms of gender equity, with Norway ranked highest in the world. Yemen was ranked at the bottom, just behind Chad, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Taiwan has called on Japan to apologize to the so-called comfort women, about 2,000 former sexual slaves held by the Japanese army during World War II, Radio Taiwan International reported Nov. 11. Taiwan’s resolution followed a similar call from South Korea last month, adding to mounting pressure on Japan to apologize formally. The U.S. Congress passed a similar resolution in July 2007.
  • Women who have been gang-raped and brutally beaten by members of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party for challenging his dictatorship are telling their stories to AIDS-Free World, an advocacy group founded last year by Stephen Lewis, the country’s former United Nations ambassador. The group is recording their stories in an effort to bring rapists to justice and build a court case, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported Nov. 10.
  • Father Roy Bourgeois, a priest in Georgia, has been warned by the Vatican that he will be excommunicated if he does not renounce the ordination of women, the Catholic News Agency reported Nov. 13. Bourgeois has refused to do so. “It is my conscience that compels me to do the right thing,” he wrote in a Nov. 7 letter to church officials.
  • Women have begun patrolling the border with Pakistan as part of India’s security forces, reducing the gender barriers in high-risk jobs, the Times of India reported Nov. 11. Some recruits will be posted in inhospitable terrain along the border, but will mostly be used to frisk women who cross the border fence to cultivate land.
  • Women’s donations rise alongside their incomes and they target the poorest more often than men, according to a July survey about giving from the Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University, the New York Times reported Nov. 10. Female donors largely target women’s rights and children.
  • Vivian Schiller, the general manager of the New York Times Web site, has been named CEO and president of National Public Radio, the network announced Nov. 11.
  • Female journalists in the Washington press corps rose from 27 to 32 percent in 2008 from 27 percent in 2004, according to a report from UNITY Journalists of Color, a Virginia-based strategic alliance advocating fair and accurate news coverage about people of color around the country. Women hold 24 percent of editors’ positions.
  • A long-time defender of battered women, Michael Dowd of New York, has subpoenaed the 1,000 complaints of child sexual abuse in the Orthodox community gathered by radio personality and New York Assembly member Dov Hikind, according to press reports. Hikind invited his radio show listeners to discuss their experiences and now claims he has the complaints and the names of 60 sexual predators in the community. He says he has them under “lock and key” in his office and he will not turn them over because the people who spoke openly to him swore him to secrecy. Dowd, also well-known for representing victims of Roman Catholic priests, now represents six men who claim they were abused by a teacher in a Brooklyn yeshiva.


thumb pointing down

Women suffer disproportionately from poverty, health problems, lack of education and oppression, according to the Nov. 12 “State of World Population 2008” report released by the United Nations Population Fund, Deutsche Welle World reported. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Germany’s development minister, summed it up: “A scandal,” she told the news agency.

Females represent three-fifths of the world’s poorest, two-thirds of the world’s illiterate and 70 percent of children who do not have access to education, the report stated. Sexual violence plays a role in most of the world’s armed conflicts. Half a million women die from preventable childbirth and pregnancy complications each year, and between 10 and 15 million more are permanently disabled.

Despite laws preventing women’s rights violations, including outlawing practices such as genital mutilation, cutting and child marriage, the practices continue in many countries and are often conducted with the consent of girls’ mothers, Marketwatch reported Nov. 12. Gender inequality is widespread and deeply rooted in many cultures.

Women’s rights violations can be reduced by changing cultural values from within and integrating them into development policies. “Culturally sensitive programming is key to building this common ground,” the U.N. report concluded.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Roughly 1,500 students and teachers stayed home from the Kandahar City School the day after three Afghan girls were seriously burned in an acid attack by two men on a motorcycle, CBC News reported Nov. 13.
  • Between 7,000 and 8,000 female veterans are homeless, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. As women increase in the military, their homelessness after service is a new and worrisome problem for the government, the Chicago Tribune reported Nov. 9.
  • President Tabare Vazquez of Uruguay vetoed a legislative bill that would have legalized abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, Agence France-Presse reported Nov. 13. The bill would have ended the country’s 70-year-old abortion ban, which was opposed by 57 percent of Uruguayans in a recent poll.
  • The glass ceiling in Israeli politics is strong despite Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s efforts to become prime minister, Haaretz reported Nov. 11. “We have a chauvinistic society and men have the upper hand,” says Hedva Yehezkeli, the Green Party candidate for mayor of Hadera who was targeted by fliers reading “Why are you here? Go home, you have five children” and “Being a blonde is not enough.” Thirty-two women ran for mayor nationwide in Nov. 11 municipal elections; three were elected.
  • Esha Momeni, a graduate student at the Northridge campus of California State University, was released from Iranian prison Nov. 10, Reuters reported. Momeni, held on security charges over her involvement with a women’s rights equality campaign, was working on a documentary when she was arrested Oct. 15.


Women working part-time jobs have firmly become part of Dutch culture, according to a Nov. 11 report from the Social and Cultural Planning Office, a Dutch government research agency, Radio Netherlands reported. Women work part time by choice in Holland more than in any other European country, emphasizing traditional roles taking care of children, hobbies and their own social contacts.

Iulia Anghelescu is a WeNews correspondent.

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