Jan 292010

The following provides additional news and comments about the particular needs of women in the aftermath of the the  earthquake in Haiti:

From the Washington Post:

(A)s health and safety conditions in the capital city worsen, putting Haitian women and children at particular risk for disease and sexual exploitation.

Reports show that violence against women and girls was already common in Haiti before the earthquake. In a 2006 study by the Inter-American Development Bank, one-third of women and girls said they had suffered physical or sexual violence, and more than half of those were younger than 18.

“We have to keep in mind that disasters make existing inequalities even worse,” said Marijke Velzeboer-Salcedo, an expert on gender issues for the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization. “Those who are stronger and more powerful, whether physically or psychosocially — or both — are going to have better access to scarce resources. But when women are deprived of resources, entire families are likely to be deprived, too.”

About 37,000 pregnant women affected by the earthquake are in desperate need of food, clean drinking water and access to health care, said Franck Geneus, who directs health programs in Haiti for CARE, an Atlanta-based nonprofit group that helps women and children around the world. As many as 10,000 of the women could give birth in the next month.

Workers in the battered town of Leogane carefully planned the distribution of hygiene kits by first sending in an assessment team and coordinating with local leaders to ensure that the neediest women would be helped, officials said. The goal is to prevent the aid from ending up in the hands of people who try to sell it or force women to trade sexual favors for food and supplies.

“Stand in line! Stop pushing!” officers yelled as others handed out bags of rice, corn, sardines, sausages and beans. There were separate lines for men and women. But only men were at the front, clawing for the food; women and children waited behind in longer lines that did not move.

In an interview by Anne-christine D’adesky with promminent Haitian journalist Liliane Pierre-Paul published in World Pulse,

“From the minute the buildings fell,” Liliane informs me, “women were there and everywhere. They were leading the way into buildings; leading stunned children into safety; tending to the wounded; screaming and demanding help; speaking to the foreign media and CNN; setting up instant street kitchens and camps; singing, witnessing, praying.”

“There’s no doubt that the earthquake has had a massive impact on Haitian women,” Liliane confirms, “in ways that we as feminists and women leaders have yet to really take in—we haven’t been able to analyze this. It’s just survival now. We’re so busy trying to cope right this minute, to just get through this day. But we know… I know… it’s huge.”

Erica Guevara-Rosas, Program Director for Americas for the Global Fund for Women:

There has been a lot of concern that the humanitarian aid is currently lacking in gender-sensitivity – not just in terms of what is being distributed, but also how it is distributed. In isolated areas, the aid is distributed by air, leaving women and children vulnerable to abuse. The reports we have heard so far about the plight of women and girls on the ground affirms our fear that risk of gender and sexual violence escalates during times of such grave crisis. It is very important to give visibility to the needs of women and girls, as well as to the importance of including women in the decision-making of all reconstruction efforts and aid distribution.

The resource mobilization to respond to the tragedy has been impressive. UN agencies, governments, cooperative agencies, relief organizations, individual donors and other actors are raising funds from all over the world to address the immediate needs of Haitians. Equally important and impressive has been the response of international women’s movements. Feminist and women’s organizations from around the world are sending support or offering technical assistance to help Haitian women with the reconstruction of their communities. The Latin American and Caribbean women’s movements have quickly mobilized resources to prioritize the distribution of gender-sensitive assistance, as well as to revitalize the Haitian women’s movement. While the response has been encouraging, the needs are increasing and the conditions are increasingly chaotic. Thousands of Haitians, mainly women and children are crossing the border to seek assistance on the Dominican side or are trying to leave in small boats, risking their lives in order to get to the US. The government of Dominican Republic estimates that more than 10,000 people are already across the border, where conditions are not suitable to establish camps with basic services.

Besides the much-needed humanitarian aid, we need to ensure that long-term support for the reconstruction phase and to protect women and children from violence, as well as support to ensure that women will be participate in decision making are crucial in the following months. The Latin American and Caribbean feminist movement is coordinating efforts in an unprecedented manner. Coalitions to respond to the crisis, e-mail lists, blogs, joint statements and other actions have been established to coordinate and organize long-term strategies to support women and children. (Continue reading here.)

Madre’s Yifat Susskind:

Right now, there is a window of opportunity to ensure that Haiti’s reconstruction process upholds the full range of women’s human rights and uses gender awareness as a starting point for successful recovery efforts. Nothing less than the future of Haiti is at stake.

Eve Ensler on the sad death of Haitian feminist leader Myriam Merlet:

And CNN with more on Merlet as well as 2 other prominent Haitian women, Anne Marie Coriolan and Magalie Marcelin.

Finally, Cynthia McKinney has written an excellent piece addressing the implicit racism and militarism in the U.S.government’s response to Haiti,

President Obama’s response to the tragedy in Haiti has been robust in military deployment and puny in what the Haitians need most: food; first responders and their specialized equipment; doctors and medical facilities and equipment; and engineers, heavy equipment, and heavy movers. Sadly, President Obama is dispatching Presidents Bush and Clinton, and thousands of Marines and U.S. soldiers. By contrast, Cuba has over 400 doctors on the ground and is sending in more; Cubans, Argentinians, Icelanders, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, and many others are already on the ground working–saving lives and treating the injured. Senegal has offered land to Haitians willing to relocate to Africa.

The United States, on the day after the tragedy struck, confirmed that an entire Marine Expeditionary Force was being considered “to help restore order,” when the “disorder” had been caused by an earthquake striking Haiti; not since 1751, 1770, 1842, 1860, and 1887 had Haiti experienced an earthquake. But, I remember the bogus reports of chaos and violence the led to the deployment of military assets, including Blackwater, in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. One Katrina survivor noted that the people needed food and shelter and the U.S. government sent men with guns. Much to my disquiet, it seems, here we go again. From the very beginning, U.S. assistance to Haiti has looked to me more like an invasion than a humanitarian relief operation.

It’s a thought-provoking piece and I recommend it in its entirety.

 January 29, 2010  Posted by on January 29, 2010 2 Responses »
Jan 282010

I haven’t heard anything further from Thomson Reuters regarding their cause-branding co-option of International Women’s Day, however as you may recall (see earlier posts on the matter here), according to Julia Fuller, the Global Head of Corporate Responsibility at Thomson Reuters,

Thomson Reuters involvement with the IWD site extends to the provision of news feeds which contain gender relevant content around a number of themes including science and innovation, justice, health and business and finance.  Hence our partnership is more refined than simply posting irrelevant Reuters news stories onto the site.

I thought a look at their International Women’s Day Business and Finance page might be useful in illustrating what a total crock that is.  Here is a screenshot taken on 1/27/10:

The Thomson Reuters InternationalWomensDay.com Business and Finance Page--And this has what to do with IWD?

Stocks edge lower, new home sales fall, Geithner takes the hot seat and Berkshire shares surge…this is gender relevant how?  Please feel free to write to Ms. Fuller and ask her directly, julia.fuller@thomsonreuters.com.  You might also inquire about the change in identity on Twitter–they’ve changed the InternationalWomensDay.com user name from Reuters_Women to Women_on_IWD, but their  bio description still reads,

Thomson Reuters is global partner to the Aurora International Women’s Day website. Tweet back.

In other words, it is still a Thomson Reuters gig, but it isn’t as obvious unless you click on their profile.  While we are delighted that that Thomson Reuters is supportive of International Women’s Day, saying that their website, which is clearly designed in part to drive traffic to unrelated Reuters content, is The International Women’s Day website in their metatags is presumptuous, erroneous and unacceptable and the Feminist Peace Network continues to call for a boycott of the InternationalWomensDay.com website.

 January 28, 2010  Posted by on January 28, 2010 1 Response »
Jan 272010

If President Obama truly wanted to clean up the disaster known as the economy, he would immediately fire Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and replace him with Elizabeth Warren, the chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel created to investigate the U.S. banking bailout (the Wall Street giveaway formally known as TARP), She has proven time and again that she understands the issue and is not afraid to call it like it is as she so eloquently demonstrates on this appearance on The Daily Show.

Unfortunately, in the same clip, Jon Stewart also demonstrates a bad case of dick in brain disease.  Wait for the last line.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Elizabeth Warren
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Really??  He couldn’t express respect without devolving into a testosterone crazed teenage wet dream? About as classy as when George Bush gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel a shoulder massage.- And just a hunch, but I’m betting that he wouldn’t say that to Geithner or Bernanke (who should also be shown the door.  Ditto Larry Summers).

 January 27, 2010  Posted by on January 27, 2010 Comments Off on The Girls’ Guide To The Economy Part 24–Why Elizabeth Warren Should Replace Geithner And Why Jon Stewart Should Apologize To Her
Jan 272010

In this excellent piece, Masum Momaya has put together a look back at women’s rights gains and losses:

In January, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States. He quickly revoked the global gag rule, restored funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for access the sexual and reproductive health and, in spite of Pope Benedict’s pronouncement in Africa against the use of condoms, acknowledged the need to rapidly and systematically address the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The same month, more affirmation for sexual and reproductive rights came as Bolivians approved a new constitution with a dedicated chapter to women’s rights.

At the international level, in April, the UN Commission on Population and Development passed a resolution placing an unprecedented emphasis on human rights, including in regard to sexuality. The resolution made a commitment to comprehensive education on sexuality and gender equality, access to male and female condoms, reproductive health services for adolescents, and the importance of sexual and reproductive rights to HIV/AIDS.A few months later, maternal death and illness were finally recognized as pressing human rights concerns by the UN Human Rights Council.

Mexico City decriminalized first-trimester abortions, which triggered a backlash of restrictions as states across Mexico quickly passed anti-abortion legislation. Meanwhile, Nepal enacted a more permissive abortion law, making the procedure more accessible.

Youth activists made significant strides this year, advocating on behalf of the largest generation of youth ever at high-level international conferences, including the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, the Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights, and the NGO Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development as well as the Internet Governance Forum, where they advocated for policies based on agency and consent rather than victimization and repression of sexuality.

You can read the rest of this  informative piece here. Also of interest, IPS interviews Charlotte Bunch, Founder of the Center for Global Women’s Leadership for her thoughts on Obama’s commitment to women’s human rights.  Here are some of her thoughts and you can read the complete interview here:

So far the Obama administration has done pretty well in advancing women’s rights through their foreign policy. The most substantial evidence of this is the increase in money that the State Department is now allocating to women’s concerns.

According to a recent report by Women Thrive Worldwide, the budget for women’s rights has dramatically increased from the Bush years. Their analysis of the State, Foreign Operations budget for FY10 found an increase of 1.66 billion dollars more than FY09 to the tune of nearly 8.0 billion dollars for global development.

Also important to note is the focus on women’s empowerment and gender integration across the foreign aid programmes which will be applied to 16.5 billion dollars in funding. The Congressional bill also included 3.1 million dollars for the newly created Office for Global Women’s Issues at the State Department.

Of course, the State Department budget still pales in comparison to the Defence Department, but the allocation of more dollars does signal clear intention of U.S. foreign policy to empower women and improve their rights…

As for disappointment, escalating the war in Afghanistan isn’t improving the situation for Afghan women, men or children. And although they have made development in Afghanistan a priority, it still doesn’t balance the damage and destruction that will be wrought from more militarised violence. Similar questions could be raised about continuing U.S. military activity in Iraq and other places…

Whether or not the Obama administration views women’s rights as a priority in a larger geopolitical and military context is questionable. For example, the White House has talked of working with “moderate” Taliban-despite its abhorrent record of abusing and oppressing women-as acceptable to achieving their objectives in Afghanistan…

Another measure of how much political capital the Obama administration is going to wage on advancing women’s rights will be whether they are going to pursue the ratification of the Convention the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). There are 186 signatories to the international treaty, but the United States, along with Sudan and Iran, are among the very few countries that have not ratified it.

 January 27, 2010  Posted by on January 27, 2010 Comments Off on A Look Back At Women’s Rights Gains And Losses In 2009 And A Reality Check On Obama’s Commitment To Women
Jan 262010

Like many of you, I have  discouragement  fatigue.  No matter what we do, it seems that the corporate and and government leaders are determined to take the fast road to hell in a handbasket.  We  keep waging war, we continue to destroy the environment, people are hungry and sick, too many have lost jobs and homes, our schools and roads are in disrepair.  Getting out of bed in the morning sounds like a really bad idea.  What difference will it make if we sign one more petition, call our elected officials one more time, let alone head out into frigid temperatures to a protest gathering?

One very good reason is that it is not so much about the impact our actions have on others but rather how our actions empower ourselves.  I have written multiple times about the power of protest and standing up for what you believe in (here, here and here)  but what is so difficult to capture in words is the spiritual empowerment of standing your ground. I’m not sure how many protests I attended before I came to understand this–quite a few–until one day, standing with a few friends protesting outside of a lecture given by Condoleezza Rice, I found myself feeling literally rooted to the cold sidewalk where we stood. That is something you have to feel to understand, not something that can be adequately said in words.  But since that time, whenever I am out on the street,  I stop to pay attention to the strength and connectedness that comes from standing your ground.

Wile at a vigil in 2005, two days after being arrested and jailed when trying to enlist at the Times Square Recruiting Center (left to right: Miriam Poser, Joan Wile, Cindy Sheehan, Carole Abrahams, Joan Kaye and Maggie Vall)

Joan Wile, founder of Grandmothers Against the War and one of my sheroes has a wonderful piece on her blog, where she talks about why the sense of empowerment that comes from standing up for what you believe in is so important in these discouraging times (and while both she and I are talking about standing in the literal sense, as I try to do in my writing every day, you can do a whole lot of standing up from a sitting down position :-).  Describing the weekly gathering of Grandmothers Against War on the day after George Bush was re-elected she writes,

The other people standing on Fifth Avenue with me were equally depressed and ready to give up the struggle. You’ve never seen so many long faces.

Then, an amazing thing happened. As we stood there with our peace signs and banners, the black clouds in our minds began to waft away. Slowly, we began to smile and chatter in our usual good spirits. By the end of the vigil, we were practically jubilant. Nothing had changed — the grim reality was still the fact that the worst President in history was going to head the government for another four years and reap hideous injustices and catastrophes. But, WE had changed. We had decided to press on and continue battling for our issues.

It was clear that in the act of fighting back, we were able to banish our hopeless feelings.

Eve Tetaz at an anti-war protest in March 2007. By Lori Perdue.

Eve Tetaz at an anti-war protest in March 2007. By Lori Perdue.

Or put another way, in the words of Eve Tetaz, an almost 79 year old who has racked up her 21rst arrest for protesting puts it,

“In everything I do,” she said, flashing her large smile, “I want to be a reflection of my faith.”

Indeed. Imagine the power of what might happen if every person who feels that corporations should not be more powerful than people and every person who is unemployed and every person who cannot afford healthcare and every person who believes in the right to breathable air and drinkable water and every person who has lost a home or lost a child or spouse to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were to gather with their neighbors in the town squares of this country. Not in anger although goodness knows we have every right to be, but simply to empower ourselves with the act of standing up for our lives. That would be a force to be reckoned with.

Crossposted from Reclaiming Medusa.

 January 26, 2010  Posted by on January 26, 2010 Comments Off on Reclaiming Our Ground–the Empowerment Of Standing Up