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The United States Agency for International Development announced March 1 that it will be including gender-equity polices (which affect men and women) and female empowerment throughout all its activities. Efforts to improve such things as girls’ and women’s access to resources and to reduce gender violence, will be considered at the top agency level as well as in particular country strategies and projects.

USAID, which provides economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide, says that "if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent . . . which could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by up to 150 million."

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • An amendment that would allow employers to opt out of health coverage that they objected to on religious grounds was defeated last week in the Senate, by a vote of 51-48, reported Politico March 1. TheWashington Post reported that three Democrats voted for the Blunt amendment and a lone Republican, Olympia Snowe, voted against it. The 51 to 48 vote to kill the amendment was largely along party lines. Sen. Snowe (R-Maine) has announced she will not run for re-election because of the ever-increasing pressure she faces as a pro-choice Republican.
  • On March 1, a coalition of more than 50 women’s organizations under the banner of HERvotes announced what they say is an unprecedented effort to mobilize female voters for the 2012 elections. HERvotes stands for Health and Economic Rights. The group says it’s determined to ensure that women have access to quality health care; to protect the gains women have made in education, the workplace, health care and basic individual rights and to continue moving forward an equality agenda.
  • An organization in Pakistan comprising men working to end violence against women will hold a national conference on March 8 on gender-sensitive news reporting, anticipating a proper code of ethics and its effective implementation, reported the Pakistan Daily Times March 1. The conference’s objective is to engage journalists on gender issues through media-training programs, activism and dialogue.
  • Insurers and employers that do not comply with the Obama administration’s contraception coverage rule could face federal fines of $100 per day per employee, according to the Congressional Research Service, Politicoreported Feb. 28. Individual beneficiaries may also be able to sue their health plans if they do not fulfill the requirement that all contraceptives be fully covered.
  • The wealth of women in the Gulf area is estimated at $385 billion, according to a report issued in Dubai, The Egypt Independent reported Feb. 27. The report, issued by Al Masah Capital Limited, an alternative asset management company, said women have been taking serious steps in work, education and economic and social development.
  • The Inclusion Initiative exceeded the 2011 goal of spending $70 million and ultimately spent about $97.7 million in fees to minority and women-owned law firms, the group announced in a press statement Feb. 27. The Inclusion Initiative was launched in 2010 by major companies with a demonstrated commitment to diversity in the legal profession, drawn from a wide cross-section of industries. The Inclusion Initiative set an aggregate goal of spending $118 million with minority and women owned law firms in 2012.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union and the Service Women’s Action Network will appear in federal court Monday seeking records on military sexual trauma from the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, ACLU announced Feb. 27 in a press statement. Both organizations denounce the unwillingness of the government to provide data on incidents of rape, sexual assault, domestic violence and sexual harassment in the military. It is estimated that over 19,000 service members are sexually assaulted each year, nearly double the rate of civilians, according to the press release.
  • Hundreds of top female journalists in Germany are demanding the introduction of a quota to ensure at least 30 percent of all executive positions across the German media industry are filled by women, The Guardian reported Feb. 27.
  • A group of women formed a new political action committee to recruit and support candidates to defeat elected officials who back the ultrasound and so-called personhood bills, The Washington Post reported Feb. 27. Women’s Strike Force, which boasts several former elected officials, formed after Virginia’s attempt to require women to undergo mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasounds before an abortion.


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Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh called Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke a "slut," and a "prostitute,"The Huffington Post reported Feb. 29.

"What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex — what does that make her?,"Limbaugh said. "It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex."

Fluke was supposed to be the Democratic witness at a Congressional hearing about the Obama administration’s contraception policy. The Republican committee chair prevented her from speaking, while allowing a series of men to testify about the policy. Fluke eventually spoke to a Democratic hearing, and talked about the need for birth control for both reproductive and broader medical reasons. She mentioned in particular a friend of hers who needed contraception to prevent the growth of cysts.

U.S. Rep. Caroline Maloney, a Democrat from New York, issued a statement shortly after Limbaugh’s program saying his characterization of Fluke "was as shocking as it was uninformed. It was disgraceful and debasing. All because she was willing to stand up for a woman’s right to access reproductive health care. Google it for yourself – I will not repeat it."

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Some American women, especially in the rural West, live more than an hour’s drive from a hospital with maternity care, a new study finds, reported Reuters March 1. Women in Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico and Wyoming had some of the lowest access rates: anywhere from 68 percent to 84 percent were within an hour’s drive of any hospital with maternity care. The one state with a lower rate was Alaska, at only 63 percent.
  • A House committee in Pennsylvania’s state legislature cleared a bill that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before an abortion, and it is scheduled for House floor action March 12, reported Philly.com Feb. 29.
  • Conservatives are pushing to make a drug testing mandatory for welfare recipients to receive government assistance, The New York Times reported Feb. 26. The issue has come up in the Republican presidential campaign, with Mitt Romney calling it an "excellent idea." Nearly two dozen states are considering measures that would make drug testing mandatory for welfare recipients, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
  • Anti-abortion legislation was introduced in Idaho to require an ultrasound before any Idaho woman could have an abortion, The Spokesman Review reported Feb. 27. The bill, which requires an invasive transvaginal ultrasound to provide a clear picture of the fetus before the abortion, was introduced in the Idaho senate’s State Affairs Committee on a party-line vote. The panel’s two Democrats objected. The bill now will be scheduled for a full hearing in the committee.


  • More than 30 writers have contributed to "The Unfinished Revolution: Voices from the Global Fight for Women’s Rights," to be released on March 8. The anthology tells the story of the global struggle to secure basic rights for women and girls. Edited by Minky Wordon, director of Global Initiatives for Human Rights Watch, with a forward by journalist Christine Amanpour, the book will be excerpted on womensenews.org March 11.
  • Barack Obama is gaining support among female voters as the economy improves and as social issues, including birth control, become a bigger part of the nation’s political discourse, Associated Press reported Feb. 28. Women are giving Obama more credit than men are for the country’s economic improvement, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll. Among women, his approval ratings on handling the economy and unemployment have jumped 10 percentage points since December.
  • Om Zied, a Tunisian journalist-turned-politician, announced on Tunisian radio station ‘Radio Jeunes’ her decision to leave "definitely and forever" her political party Congress for the Republic Party, Business Week reported Feb. 29. Om Zied declared on air that she has never considered herself as a politician but instead a militant, adding that her mission should have ended with the departure of Ben Ali. Om Zied also said that she has become the target of deliberated attacks. "I lost my esteem and dignity, by the insults on Facebook, from Ennadha’s youth. That hurts me especially when it comes from friend and allied party," she said.
  • The Virginia Senate voted Feb. 28 for a scaled-back version of a controversial proposal that would require women to undergo external ultrasounds before abortions, but not the transvaginal ones, The Washington Post reported Feb. 28. The 21- 19 vote in the Republican-controlled Senate — mostly along party lines — came after Gov. Robert F. McDonnell asked legislators to soften the bill following protests on Capitol Square and mocking on national television. Earlier, the Senate Finance Committee killed a bill that would have prevented poor women whose fetuses have gross mental and physical abnormalities from using state funds for abortions.
  • A U.S. government bureau is now accepting applications from American women in the technology sector to serve as mentors to women from the Middle East and Africa, according to a press release March 1. The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, through the international exchange program TechWoman, brings 42 women from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Tunisia, and Yemen to U.S.-based technology companies in Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area for a five-week mentorship program with American women working in technology. The program starts in September. Candidates may apply at here. Click here to learn more.
  • Women could give birth with their own eggs later in life as they possess a potentially "unlimited" supply of them, according to a study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, NPR reported Feb. 27. Women’s ovaries contain stem cells which can "spontaneously" generate into immature eggs in the laboratory, American researchers found. For decades, the prevailing wisdom has been that women have a finite number of eggs that gradually diminish in number and quality until the menopause.

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