Burk Swings Club at Exxon; Zimbabwe Lifespan: 34

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersA group of ExxonMobil shareholders filed a resolution on April 5 accusing the Houston-based oil company of discrimination against women for its sponsorship of The Masters Golf Tournament held last week at the male-only Augusta National Golf Club, Reuters reported. The resolution asserts that the company’s sponsorship of the tournament–now in its 70th year at the exclusive club in Augusta, Ga.–violates the company’s anti-discrimination policy and calls for management to provide detailed reports of its financial transactions with venues that discriminate against women.Martha Burk, head of the corporate accountability program for the Washington-based National Council of Women’s Organizations, led the resolution effort, and hopes that ExxonMobil will again withdraw its sponsorship.After Burk and other women’s leaders led a protest at the 2003 Masters, CBS broadcast the event with no commercial sponsorship in 2003 and 2004. Last year, the tournament welcomed back ExxonMobil, SBC Communications and IBM as sponsors.”ExxonMobil would not sponsor such an event if it were held at a venue that discriminated against African Americans or other racial minorities,” Burk said in a statement. “It should be no different for women.”More News to Cheer This Week:In a step toward combating the daunting problem of providing later-in-life financial security for the over 300 million Indians that work as street vendors, rag pickers, tailors and other unregulated occupations, a bank for self-employed women has launched an affordable pension scheme for the southern state of Kerala. The plan, initiated by the Ahmedabad-based Self Employed Women’s Association of India, has attracted as many as 25,000 members, the online Indian newspaper newKerala.com reported April 12.

GAO Blasts Abstinence Aid; Afghan Women Suffer

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersAn April 4 government study that evaluated the Bush administration’s program to fight HIV-AIDS found that a mandate promoting abstinence-only sex education worldwide was confusing for those who implement it and sometimes hindered comprehensive educational programs for populations at high risk for HIV.The Government Accountability Office, the congressional budget watchdog, said in its independent report that 17 out of 20 U.S. Agency for International Development teams in 17 surveyed countries told investigators the abstinence requirement hampered their ability to respond to “local prevention needs.” The mandate requires that individual teams spend at least one-third of their anti-AIDS funding on promoting sexual abstinence.The report also identified widespread confusion about whether USAID workers were allowed to teach about condoms, since the term “condom promotion” is prohibited by the legislation, while there is ambiguity surrounding the term “condom education.””Unfortunately, this report demonstrates the Bush administration’s willingness to make AIDS prevention policy a political plaything in their ongoing effort to appease the far right,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said. “We should be relying on science, not ideology, to stop this pandemic.”More News to Cheer This WeekThirty-one female employees bringing a sex discrimination and harassment lawsuit against the U.S. Mint in Denver won a $9 million settlement this week, the Denver Post reported April 1. Female employees described instances of discrimination in hiring practices, finding stashes of pornography in the office, being propositioned by managers and being offered money for sex. They brought the lawsuit after more than 100 complaints filed over the course of five years were met with silence by the mint’s equal-employment officer.Once or twice a month for seven years, a 70-year-old grandmother, Dr. Miriam McCreary, has flown from Minneapolis to Sioux Falls, S.D., to perform abortions at the only clinic that offers the procedure in the state, CNN reported April 5.

Woman to Lead Jamaica; Girls Lose in College Bids

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersSupporters of Portia Simpson-Miller cheered her campaign anthem, “It’s Woman Time Now,” while the 51-year-old government minister of local government and sport was sworn in as Jamaica’s first female prime minister on March 30. She is the second female head of government in the Caribbean, following Eugenia Charles, who was prime minister of Dominica in the 1980s, the Jamaican Information Service, a government Web site, reported.Simpson-Miller has inspired what local observers are calling an astonishing degree of national unity. In some of Kingston’s inner-city areas, where gunfire between supporters of Simpson-Miller’s People’s National Party and backers of the rival Jamaican Labour Party, who often live on opposite sides of the road from one another, was once commonplace, Simpson-Miller is popular among supporters of both parties.Dr. Glenda Simms, formerly of Jamaica’s Bureau of Women’s Affairs and a campaigner for Simpson-Miller, told the BBC-Caribbean that Simpson-Miller’s appointment signifies “the beginning of a transformation in Jamaican society, and I am convinced that this augers well for all peoples of the world, especially the third world.”More News to Cheer This Week:Jill Carroll, a 28-year-old freelance reporter for The Christian Science Monitor, was freed after being kidnapped for three months on March 30, the Monitor reported. Despite her distraught appearance in videos that surfaced during her captivity, she said that she had been well treated by her captors. The group that released Carroll said it freed her because the U.S. government had agreed to some of its demands to release all female Iraqi prisoners.

Stars to Talk Back on FM; C-Section Rate Higher

Billie Jean King, Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem and Rosie O’Donnell are just a few of the celebrity women-turned-venture capitalists that have invested over $3.1 million in an effort to syndicate talk shows for women on FM radio, the Washington Business Journal reported on March 19. The recipient is a Washington, D.C.-based company called Greenstone Media.

U.K. Funds Caretaker Pensions; Baby Held for Bill

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersThe British government plans to offer all caregivers, mostly women, weekly financial credits to equal the payments they would have made into the state pension fund had they been in the labor force, The Guardian reported on March 14. A new proposal would recognize the contributions of female caregivers who leave or never enter the work force, and, as result, are left with a meager cushion of pension funds when they retire.In Britain today, only 30 percent of women who reach official retirement age are eligible to receive full pension benefits. The average woman receives 70 percent of the pension, which the government says is not enough for the 10 million women that survive on that amount. John Hutton, the United Kingdom’s work and pensions secretary, is hoping the new plan will change that.”As modern life becomes increasingly more diverse–and men and women alike bring up children and caring for family and friends–this could be a win for men as well,” Hutton said.The government estimates that currently 2.2 million women living in the United Kingdom are not accruing the full basic state pension and 600,000 of them fall below the lowest earnings threshold.More News to Cheer This Week:An annual study comparing the academic performance of male and female athletes in the NCAA women’s and men’s basketball tournament teams revealed that female players do better academically and have higher graduation rates than male athletes, and that the gap between white and African American female players is smaller than the same gap for males. The March 15 report showed that 95 percent of women’s teams surveyed graduated at least 50 percent of their players, 31 percent higher than the men’s teams. The graduation gap was also affected by race: on women’s teams, whites had a 19 percent higher rate than African Americans, while on men’s teams, the gap was 33 percent.