Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Don't Abort Women's Rights

I write to commend Minister Lisa Hanna's speaking to a difficult but realistically urgent matter. This is leadership.
Obviously, affirming the urgency of women's reproductive rights is neither politically expedient nor point-accumulating in general. I am tired of meeting poor Jamaican sisters who do not have access to professional advice concerning the pros and cons of the challenging decision to abort or not.
It seems pretty clear to me that many persons will misunderstand her call, simply because they do not understand the depth of this necessity. Who knows, for example, that within a legal framework, pregnant girls and women can receive professional advice without the stigma and discrimination that currently prevails? Who knows that medical personnel who are so qualified are not at liberty to advise a pregnant client regarding the full gamut of her reproductive rights? Who knows that under the current dispensation, it is mere guesswork regarding the true statistical data concerning abortions?
It is my hope that we will not be satisfied with the continued botched back-door abortions that often lead to complications and even death.
We are a country that loves our women and we place a premium on the office of motherhood. Should we not protect our women and mothers by doing all in our power to protect women's rights to equality and non-discrimination? Who would disagree with our country making the progressive decision to protect the right to life and the right to health? Would anyone really stand in the way of reforming the current law, so that the right to liberty and the security of the person may be truly affirmed in accordance with the values Jamaica shares within the community of nations?
Minister Hanna, you have made a timely call. Hopefully it will receive more than the often emotive responses.
It is so sad to see how archaic pieces of legislation have been used only to serve the purpose of intellectual discussions, religious quarrels, and political ball games. Meanwhile, hundreds of poverty-stricken Jamaican women suffer the indignity and threat of life-threatening procedures/practices as a result of these oppressive laws.
Even if they are going to be drilled with biblical quotations in the midst of their confusion, should they not be facilitated with a comprehensive approach in an effort to empower them with information?
Imagine with me a context in which a fellow Jamaican citizen is faced with the challenging decision of doing an abortion. She is a member of some religious community. She is ridden with guilt. However, nursing advisers, medical personnel, and her pastor all agree that she must be approached in a non-judgemental way. She is presented with the pros and cons of such a procedure. She is assured of her capacity to make her own authentic and respect-deserving decision. Wow! Pardon me here, forgot I am in Jamaica.
Parliament must move with haste to arrest the risks of maternal morbidity and mortality as a result of our unwise clutching on to these antiquated remains which have long been discarded by their masters of origin.
We have had years of talking, debating, sermonising, and politicking. What next? We need leadership! We need our political servants of the people to act in the interest of our country. Jamaica needs you, the primary protectors of human rights, to lead the way for our girls and women. Will you?
P.S.: By the way, Minister Hanna, I still loved you in the bathing suit. Next time, please ditch the T-shirt.
- Fr Sean Major-Campbell is an Anglican priest. Email feedback tocolumns@gleanerjm.com and seanmajorcampbell@yahoo.com.

Source: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/commentary/20150424/dont-abort-womens-rights

Monday, 4 May 2015

Cecily Strong Tackles Hillary Clinton, Women's Rights, & More in Funny Speech at WHCD 2015 (Video)

Cecily Strong takes the podium at the 2015 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner held at the Washington Hilton on Saturday (April 25) in Washington, D.C.
The 31-year-old Saturday Night Live castmember made jokes for more than 20 minutes about everything from President Obama to Fox News.
When speaking about the Secret Service, she said, “The only law enforcement agency that actually gets in trouble if a black guy gets shot.”
“It feels so weird to be up here,” Cecily also said. “Since I’m only a comedian, I’m not going to try and tell you how to do politics. That would be like you guys telling me what to do with my body. I mean, can you even imagine? Crazy.”
Watch Cecily Strong‘s entire WHCD speech below!

Read more: http://www.justjared.com/2015/04/26/cecily-strong-tackles-hillary-clinton-womens-rights-more-in-funny-speech-at-whcd-2015-video/#ixzz3YRCiavtK

Source: http://www.justjared.com/2015/04/26/cecily-strong-tackles-hillary-clinton-womens-rights-more-in-funny-speech-at-whcd-2015-video/

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Hillary Unveils Her Plan to Advance Women’s Rights (and Her Own Campaign)

It was hard not to read double meanings into most of Hillary Clinton’s speech at this year’s Women of the World summit. When she told the audience, composed primarily of young women, that we were “so close, closer than we’ve ever been,” she could have been talking about women’s rights and the fact that it’s better to be born female today than it has ever been in history. Or she could have been alluding to her finally official second attempt at the presidency, and her massive lead in the polls. When Clinton said “this work is far from finished,” she could have been talking about giving women equal pay and prosperity, or she could have been referring to the fact that she has yet to win any primaries, and her victory is far from assured.
Regardless of her intent in such phrasing or how it was interpreted by her whooping audience, this speech — her first big one since announcing — made it clear that the two could become inseparable. Fighting for women is going to be a big part of her campaign, which makes sense given that First Lady Hillary Clinton’s 1995 speech about women’s rights at the Fourth World Conference on Women was one of the first moments we realized she might make a great politician. Tina Brown, the former magazine editor who keeps inviting Clinton to come back to speak to the Women in the World summit every year, wrote that it was "the speech that launched a movement." 
“It is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights,” Clinton said as First Lady, and now she seems to have learned that keeping her advocacy for women separate from her presidential ambitions didn’t make sense either, as much as it seems she tried in 2008.
In Thursday's speech she said it was “unthinkable” that mothers in the United States weren’t entitled to paid leave, that child-care benefits were nearly nonexistent, and that women and men alike are forced to work inflexible hours that make being a parent impossible. She mentioned a path for citizenship for immigrants, and last week’s strike for a living wage for fast-food workers. She slammed Hobby Lobby for not paying for its employees' contraception, and Senate Republicans for delaying Loretta Lynch’s ascendancy to the top of the Justice Department. In a brief Shakespearian aside, she called the World Economic Forum “hardly a hotbed of feminist thought.”
The speech was an intricately quilted assemblage of campaign policies and anecdotes, which Clinton got to audition before what was likely the most receptive audience she'll face for the next two years. It probably wouldn’t have mattered what Clinton said — the crowd was primed to hear someone tell them about a future where women rule, or at least don’t have to fight so hard. Moments before Clinton walked onstage to an instantaneous standing ovation, her opening lines buffered by a constant hum of dozens of iPhone cameras beeping, the audience had been sniffing en masse after hearing Yeonmi Park tell her horrifying story about defecting from North Korea. Before that, Ashley Judd and Anita Sarkeesian had talked about how tiring it can be to be harassed on the internet. Who wouldn’t cheer to someone who followed up that depressing fare with a promise that tomorrow might be better?
However, the speech had other double meanings that show fiery rhetoric geared toward a group of mostly progressive women is no cheat code that will Clinton skip ahead to a victory speech. The event took place at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, which happens to share a name with one of the political donors prepared to spend millions of dollars to make sure she doesn’t win. Elections don’t take place in a vacuum, and neither do crowd-pleasing speeches.
Clinton gave another well-received speech scored with hollers from excited women last month at a United Nations conference on women, which no one will ever remember because most reporters only covered what she said moments after the speech in apress conference about her private email account. On the morning of Clinton’s speech at the Women in the World summit, a handful of unflattering stories about the Clinton Foundation’s donors and bookkeeping appeared on the websites of half a dozen reputable news organizations, upstaging Clinton’s remarks on women once again.
She can keep trying to pivot her election toward the future, but the Clintons’ past, which keeps accruing more fascinating layers, has proved far too entertaining for people to move past it so soon in the election cycle.
And so Clinton keeps trying to think of new ways to overpower the news cycle until the primaries arrive, such as appending her granddaughter's name with a combination of adjectives so adorable that voters’ memories of computers and complex finance dealings will be obliterated — by the end of Thursday’s speech, Clinton was referring to Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky as her “most amazing, fabulous granddaughter.”
After the speech and the standing ovations, a well-mannered mosh pit formed around the stage, bathing Clinton in phone flashes as she shook hands.
A young woman exiting the theater’s balcony scanned through her photos of the event as she told her friend, “I am so glad I saw that.” Clinton, who was cheered one last time as she exited stage right to return to a world where the receptions were far less fawning, was probably thinking the same thing.

Source: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/04/hillary-plans-to-advance-womens-rights-herself.html

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Women’s rights hero in Pakistan shot dead by motorcycle-riding killers: cops

KARACHI, Pakistan — Gunmen on a motorcycle killed a prominent women's rights activist in Pakistan just hours after she held a forum on the country's restive Baluchistan region, home to a long-running insurgency, police said Saturday.
While investigators declined to speculate on a motive for the killing of Sabeen Mahmud, friends and colleagues immediately described her death as a targeted assassination in Pakistan, a country with a nascent democracy where the military and intelligence services still hold tremendous sway.
The gunmen shot both Mahmud and her mother, Mehnaz Mahmud, as they stopped at a traffic light Friday night in an upscale Karachi neighborhood, senior police officer Zafar Iqbal said. Later, Mahmud's car was brought to a nearby police station. Blood stained the car's white exterior, the front driver's side window was smashed and a pair of sandals sat on the floor, surrounded by broken glass.
"Two men riding a motorcycle opened fire on the car," Iqbal said. Mahmud "died on her way to the hospital. Her mother was also wounded," he said.
Alia Chughtai, a close friend of Mahmud, told The Associated Press that Mahmud was driving at the time of attack and her mother was sitting next to her. Chughtai said Mahmud's driver, who escaped unharmed, was sitting in the back seat at the time of the attack. She said she did not know why the driver wasn't operating the car.
Iqbal and other police officials declined to speculate on a motive for the slaying. However, earlier that night, Mahmud hosted an event at her organization called The Second Floor to discuss human rights in Baluchistan, an impoverished but resource-rich southwestern province bordering Iran.

Sandals and broken glass lie on the floor of the car in which Sabeen Mahmud was riding when unknown gunmen shot and killed her Friday.

Thousands of people have disappeared from Baluchistan province in recent years amid a government crackdown on nationalists and insurgent groups there. Activists blame the government and intelligence agencies for the disappearances, something authorities deny.
Qadeer Baluch, an activist who last year led a nearly 3,000-kilometer (1,900-mile) protest march across Pakistan to demand justice for the missing in Baluchistan, attended Mahmud's event Friday night. Baluch, known widely as Mama or "Uncle" in Urdu, hinted that the government could be involved in Mahmud's slaying.
"Everybody knows who killed her and why," Baluch told Pakistan's The Nation newspaper, without elaborating.
In a statement Saturday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned Mahmud's killing and ordered an investigation into the attack. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad also condemned Mahmud's slaying and offered condolences to her loved ones.
Mahmud was "a courageous voice of the Pakistani people and her death represents a great loss," it said.
The casket of Pakistani activist Sabeen Mahmud is carried by mourners.SHAKIL ADIL/AP

The casket of Pakistani activist Sabeen Mahmud is carried by mourners.

Mahmud, a well-known activist who also ran a small technology company, hosted poetry readings, computer workshops and other events at The Second Floor. She continued to live in Karachi, Pakistan's southern port city, even while acknowledging the danger from insurgent groups and criminals operating there.
"Fear is just a line in your head," Mahmud told Wired magazine in 2013. "You can choose what side of that line you want to be on."
Also Saturday, Pakistan's powerful army condemned the killing of Mahmud, pledging that the country's intelligence agencies would assist in the investigation and that authorizes would "apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice."
"We condemn the tragic and unfortunate killing of Ms. Sabeen Mahmud," Maj. Gen. Asim Salim Bajwa, the army spokesman, said in a statement. "Our heart goes out to bereaved family at this sad moment."

Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/women-rights-hero-pakistan-shot-dead-cops-article-1.2199459

Friday, 1 May 2015

Sabeen Mehmud, Pakistani women's rights activist, shot dead

A leading member of Pakistan’s small band of liberal social activists has been gunned down outside the pioneering Karachi arts venue she founded, in an apparent bid to silence discussion about the country’s brutal efforts to smother separatism in the restive province of Balochistan.
The murder of Sabeen Mahmud on Friday sent shockwaves through Pakistan’s embattled intelligentsia both because she was much loved but also because the killing happened immediately after an event she organised with Mama Abdul Qadeer, an elderly Baloch activist campaigning on behalf of so-called “missing people” abducted by the state security apparatus.
Witnesses said she was shot several times by unknown gunmen in her car just after she left the talk at The Second Floor, or T2F as her cafe and arts space is known. Her mother was also critically injured in the gunfire and rushed to hospital.
On Saturday Pakistan’s army spokesman Asim Bajwa decried the killing of Mahmud as “tragic and unfortunate”.
Intelligence agencies had been “tasked to render all possible assistance to investigating agencies for apprehension of perpetrators and bringing them to justice,” General Bajwa said.
Although Mahmud had also made enemies among religious militants – not least with her counter-protest against Islamist attempts to stop Karachites marking Valentine’s Day – many of her friends believe the country’s “deep state” is responsible.
Pakistan’s military establishment is extremely touchy about the issue of Balochistan, where a nationalist movement has developed into a potent insurgency in the last decade.
The separatists are demanding independence from a Pakistani state they claim is oppressive and only interested in extracting the province’s energy and mineral resources.
Authorities are particularly sensitive about Qadeer, the 73-year-old who in 2013-14 walked 1,200 miles from the Baloch capital of Quetta to Islamabad to protest about missing people, including his own son who was found dead and mutilated in 2011 having vanished in 2009.
In March he was banned from travelling to the US to attend a human rights conference in the US.
This month the Lahore University of Management Sciences, one of the country’s most prestigious colleges, was forced to cancel an event to which Qadeer had been invited.
Senior faculty members told Dawn, a leading Pakistani newspaper, they had been forced to scrap the “Un-Silencing Balochistan” talk on the orders of the Inter-Service Intelligence directorate, the military’s powerful spy wing
Following the cancellation of the LUMS talk Mahmud was all too aware of the risks and asked her circle of friends on Facebook about what “pre-emptive measures” she should take before hosting what she called “Un-silencing Balochistan (Take 2)”.
“A lot of people did say there would be blowback but nobody thought they could shoot someone dead like that,” said Taha Siddiqui, an outspoken journalist and one of Mahmud’s many friends on Pakistan’s liberal-left.
“Shooting dead seemed a little too brutal, something that happens only in remote areas of Balochistan,” Siddiqui said. “But now they are doing in in Karachi.”
The country is extremely sensitive to the threat from nationalists, given it lost half its territory when East Pakistan seceded to form Bangladesh in 1971.
Authorities are especially keen to quell the insurgency now the province is slated to play a critical role in the grand strategic plan to turn Pakistan into a land corridor connecting China with Arabian Sea.
Last week Chinese president Xi Jinping made an important stat visit to Pakistan where he signed off on a multi-billion dollar spending splurge which hopes to turn Gwadar, a town on the coast of Balochistan, into one of the world’s great trading hubs.
Many Pakistani activists and journalists have learned that it is best not to publicly scrutinise the Balochistan issue.
Hamid Mir, the country’s most famous television news presenter, was seriously wounded by gunmen in Karachi following a confrontation with the army over his coverage of Qadeer.
Mahmud’s funeral procession began on Saturday at T2F, the cafe she established to organise debates and art events.
Local novelist Mohammed Hanif described T2F as “a space for Karachites to come and play and create”.
“The deep state already controls media in reference to Balochistan coverage,” said the acclaimed writer and journalist. “Now Baloch voices can’t be heard in private spaces.”

Source:  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/25/sabeen-mehmud-pakistani-womens-rights-activist-shot-dead

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Pictured: The female tow company clerk given a vicious dressing down by ESPN reporter as it's revealed the blonde used her blog to champion the importance of 'intelligence and class over beauty'

For a self-professed champion of women's rights, ESPN sports reporter Britt McHenry has a funny way of showing it. 
The 28-year-old has been suspended from the network for a week after being caught on camera telling a parking lot attendant she should 'lose some weight, baby girl', adding 'I'm on television and you're in a f---ing trailer, honey'.
But according to her blog, the former model is dedicated to helping women feel 'comfortable in their own skin'.
In a self-aggrandizing rant, McHenry tells her readers she is 'taking a stand' against 'sexist' commercials that focus on 'appearance alone'.
It is an almost unrecognizable tone from the one she took on April 6, when she raged at towing company clerk Gina Michelle: 'Just being here makes my skin crawl... Maybe if I was missing some teeth they would hire me, huh?'

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3043754/How-shamed-ESPN-reporter-Britt-McHenry-used-blog-champion-women-s-rights-importance-intelligence-class-beauty.html#ixzz3XlvwFx9F
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Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3043754/How-shamed-ESPN-reporter-Britt-McHenry-used-blog-champion-women-s-rights-importance-intelligence-class-beauty.html

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Afghanistan: US watchdog criticises aid scheme for women's rights

A high-profile US aid scheme in Afghanistan, hailed as the largest ever women’s empowerment programme, has come under criticism for lack of transparency and for failing to consult the women it is supposed to benefit. In another reproach of international aid efforts, an Amnesty International report released on Tuesday details how women’s rights defenders, despite achieving significant gains over the past decade, are being abandoned by the international community.
The US aid scheme Promote, launched in October last year, aims to funnel $416m into programmes to strengthen women’s rights groups and boost women’s role in the economy and national decision-making. However, it is uncertain whether the 75,000 women expected to engage in the programme will actually receive any tangible benefit, says a US watchdog.
In a recent inquiry letter, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar), which reports to the US Congress, raises concerns that USAid may not be able to “effectively implement, monitor, and assess the impact of Promote”.
The watchdog quotes Afghanistan’s first lady, Rula Ghani, warning against falling “into a game of contracting and sub-contracting”, generating a lot of paper certificates without real skill behind them.
Her husband, president Ashraf Ghani, has also previously criticised foreign aid delivery to Afghanistan, claiming that the majority of American aid returns to the US through contracting.
Women’s activists have raised concerns similar to Sigar’s. “I emphasised again and again that the programmes should be designed based on the needs of the women of Afghanistan,” said Hasina Safi, executive director of the Afghan Women’s Network.
Safi was appointed to an advisory committee for one of Promote’s three contractors, Tetra Tech, Inc, which is responsible for training 25,000 participants in “women leadership development”. She said Promote’s beneficiaries are selected too narrowly. “Promote was only designed for literate women, while in Afghanistan there is a big majority of non-educated young women,” Safi said. “They need to have more confidence in the women of Afghanistan, that they really can design a programme based on their needs.”
USAid said the criticism is “unfounded”. According to a USAid official, civil society actors were consulted, “to ask about what the project needs to do”, including women’s leaders in and outside the capital, as well as the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.
The official added that over 300 “implementers” had submitted 175 questions in a “robust discussion”, and that a procurement document had been made available online for comment in early 2013. “I can very confidently say that the outreach has been significant and taken a lot of time,” the official said, stressing that Promote does not replace USAid’s existing investments in rural education and healthcare.
In its inquiry, Sigar also questions the amount of money Promote claims to oversee. At its inception, USAid committed $216m over a five-year period, while seeking another $200m from other donors. So far, no other donor has offered money, and USAid has awarded only $42m to one contractor.
At a time of transition in Afghanistan, rights advocates worry that the attention of western countries on women’s issues will wane along with their military engagement. In the face of a worsening security situation and a stagnant economy, gender equality is a priority only for a small minority of the country’s power brokers.
Six months after his inauguration, President Ghani is struggling to keep electoral promises to include more women in the country’s higher echelons. His pledge to appoint the first woman to the supreme court seems to be floundering, and his goal of naming at least four female ministers has proved difficult. In late March, Ghani introduced a cabinet for parliamentary approval for the second time, after lawmakers rejected half of his nominees in January, including all three of his female choices.
Amnesty International said that efforts to strengthen women’s rights have been “piecemeal and ad hoc, and much of the aid money is drying up”.
In its report, the organisation echoed Sigar’s criticism of international aid, pointing to “hundreds of millions of dollars” spent on women’s rights since 2001, on projects that have “too often focused on short-term gains, and been implemented without consulting women’s activists themselves”.
Amnesty also said that violence against women’s rights proponents such as lawyers, politicians, journalists and teachers is on the rise in Afghanistan.
On 19 March, an Afghan woman, Farkhunda, was killed by a mob in central Kabulfor speaking out against what she saw as un-Islamic practice by a mullah, who retorted by claiming she had burned the Qur’an, enraging the men around her.
Though more than a dozen alleged perpetrators have been arrested, the incident has become emblematic for the impunity with which men in Afghanistan can abuse and attack women. Farkhunda’s public defiance of a male authority has turned her into an icon for women’s rights defenders.
Amnesty said despite the existence of a hard-won legal framework to protect women, “laws are often badly enforced and remain mere paper promises”.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/apr/07/afghanistan-us-watchdog-criticises-aid-womens-rights