Monday, March 30, 2009

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Amid Abuse of Girls in Brazil, Abortion Debate Flares

Published: March 28, 2009
The case of a 9-year-old who had an abortion after saying she was raped has revived a debate over abortion rights.

Here's a snippet:

"Finally, the Vatican’s top bioethics official, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, also criticized the initial stance, saying the 'credibility of our teaching took a blow as it appeared, in the eyes of many, to be insensitive, incomprehensible and lacking mercy.'"
Go to NY Times article (registration required)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Abbey Lee - Gucci Flora by Inez & Vinoodh

Abbey Lee in the new Flora by Gucci fragrance campaign, shot in July 2008 outside of Riga, Latvia.

Here is the TV commerical, directed by Chris Cunningham:
Also, watch the making of the commerical here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hollywood's new power posse

Published: March 22, 2009
Four women who are star screenwriters have a tight bond, and they’re not afraid to use it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Great Shame

Published in the NY Times on March 20, 2009

Sexual assault against women is the great shame of the U.S. armed forces, and there is no evidence that this ghastly problem is diminishing.

I had a conversation several weeks ago with a former Army officer, a woman, who had been attacked in her bed a few years ago by a superior officer, a man, who was intent on raping her.

The woman fought the man off with a fury. When she tried to press charges against him, she was told that she should let the matter drop because she hadn’t been hurt. When she persisted, battalion officials threatened to bring charges against her.

“They were talking about charging me with assault,” she said, her voice still tinged with anger and a sense of disbelief. “I’m no longer in the Army,” she added dryly.

Tia Christopher, a 27-year-old woman who lives in California and works with victims of sexual assault in the military, told me about the time that she was raped when she was in the Navy. She was attacked by another sailor who had come into her room in the barracks.

“He was very rough,” she said. “The girls next door heard my head hitting the wall, and he made quite a mess. When he left, he told me that he’d pray for me and that he still thought I was pretty.”

Ms. Christopher left the Navy. As she put it: “My military career ended. My assailant’s didn’t.”

Rape and other forms of sexual assault against women is the great shame of the U.S. armed forces, and there is no evidence that this ghastly problem, kept out of sight as much as possible, is diminishing.

New data released by the Pentagon showed an almost 9 percent increase in the number of sexual assaults reported in the last fiscal year — 2,923 — and a 25 percent increase in such assaults reported by women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Try to imagine how bizarre it is that women in American uniforms who are enduring all the stresses related to serving in a combat zone have to also worry about defending themselves against rapists wearing the same uniform and lining up in formation right beside them.

The truly chilling fact is that, as the Pentagon readily admits, the overwhelming majority of rapes that occur in the military go unreported, perhaps as many as 80 percent. And most of the men accused of attacking women receive little or no punishment. The military’s record of prosecuting rapists is not just lousy, it’s atrocious.

Louise Slaughter, a Democratic congresswoman from upstate New York, said: “I know of women victims, women in the military, who said to me that the first response they would get if they tried to report a rape was, ‘Oh, you don’t want to ruin that young man’s career, do you?’ ”

Ms. Slaughter has been trying for many years to get the military to really crack down on these crimes. “Very, very few cases result in court-martials,” she said, “and there are not that many that are even adjudicated.”

The Department of Defense has taken a peculiarly optimistic view of the increase in the number of reported sexual attacks. The most recent data is contained in the annual report that the department is required to submit to Congress. The report says that “the overall increase in reports of sexual assault in the military is encouraging,” and goes on to explain:

“It should be noted that increased reports of sexual assault do not reflect a rise in annual incidents of sexual assault. Sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes in the United States. Estimates suggest that only a small percentage of sexual assaults are ever reported to the police. The department suspects that the same is true for military society as well. An increase in the number of reported cases means that the department is capturing a greater proportion of the cases occurring each year.”

How’s that for viewing hideous statistics through rose-colored glasses? If the number of reported cases of rape goes sky-high over the next fiscal year, that will mean that the military is doing an even better job!

The military is one of the most highly controlled environments imaginable. When there are rules that the Pentagon absolutely wants followed, they are rigidly enforced by the chain of command. Violations are not tolerated. The military could bring about a radical reduction in the number of rapes and other forms of sexual assault if it wanted to, and it could radically improve the overall treatment of women in the armed forces.

There is no real desire in the military to modify this aspect of its culture. It is an ultra-macho environment in which the overwhelming tendency has been to see all women — civilian and military, young and old, American and foreign — solely as sexual objects.

Real change, drastic change, will have to be imposed from outside the military. It will not come from within.

View source article

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Obama Sets New Course at the UN
Haider Rizvi, Inter Press Service: "After nearly a decade of an often tense and estranged relationship with the United Nations, Washington appears to be taking a much more conciliatory and multilateral approach to the world body. US President Barack Obama formally restored funding for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Wednesday by signing a major spending bill, prompting UN officials to again welcome the policy shift on women's health-related rights."

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Women's Bill of Rights
Justine Andronici, Ms. Magazine: "Once a nation signs on to CEDAW, it commits to examining and identifying gender discrimination in every possible arena - education, health care, legal rights, work, culture, governance - then taking concrete actions to overcome it, including ending violence against women."

Q&A Time has Come for a New UN Women's Agency

by: Nergui Manalsuren, Inter Press Service

A mother and child in Suva, Fiji.
A mother and child in Suva, Fiji.

Nergui Manalsuren interviews Stephen Lewis, AIDS and gender expert. United Nations - After being blind for years to the needs and rights of women, the United Nations is finally well on its way to create a "fully resourced" women's agency, says Stephen Lewis, the former U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. A long-time vocal advocate for women's rights, Lewis helped promote the creation of a billion-dollar gender institution, saying it is reasonable to ask for such an amount considering that the agency will deal with issues affecting half of the world's population, and that the funding is just a third of that given to the U.N.'s children's agency UNICEF and a quarter of the U.N.'s Development Fund's (UNDP) budget. "We have an agency for children, we have an agency for health, we have an agency for sexual and reproductive rights, we've got agencies for all kinds of things, but not for women who need one, and I think the time has come," he told IPS correspondent Nergui Manalsuren. The proposal calls for a new "gender architecture" including the consolidation of three existing U.N. entities - the U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the U.N. Division for the Advancement of Women - under a single new U.N. agency. Read More»

Why America Loves Rachel Maddow

by: Louise France | Visit article original @ The Observer UK

Rachel Maddow is the host of MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show." (Photo: Ali Goldstein / AP)

Rachel Maddow is the latest hot property on American TV, watched by millions of adoring fans. Louise France meets a surprising political pin-up.

America's latest media darling - not counting the one in the White House - is kneeling on the floor like a big kid, scribbling notes on a scrap of paper. In eight hours' time 35-year-old Rachel Maddow will be sitting alone, in front of an autocue, about to present the highbrow political television programme which bears her name.

For the moment she's brainstorming ideas with her production team. What should they focus on? President Obama's proposed closure of Guantanamo? The 45,000 jobs lost before nine o'clock this morning? The banking meltdown? More troops in Afghanistan? There's a level of intense and nerdy discussion in the room which makes John Humphrys and James Naughtie look like Ant and Dec. This isn't the kind of cheery material for which American television is generally known. But these are changing times, and The Rachel Maddow Show has become an unlikely hit.

Rachel Maddow - in her own words a mannish lesbian policy wonk who doesn't own a television set - is not your average anchorwoman in America, or indeed on this side of the Atlantic. Later today when she goes live on air she must swap her Red Sox T-shirt and baggy Levi's jeans for what she calls "lady clothes" - a bland slate-grey trouser suit. (She won't say who it's by for fear of insulting the designer.) Her chunky Eric Morecambe glasses will be exchanged for contact lenses (which she's still getting used to). Reluctantly, there will be the merest smear of lipstick and blusher. She will, however, cling on to her trainers, safely out of sight under the desk. (The stylists at American Vogue recently offered her an array of extravagantly high-heeled Louboutin shoes for a photo shoot. She insisted on a pair of Converse boots.)

With their ironed hair and shrink-wrapped foreheads, women on American television news programmes all too often come across as shrill harpies or eye candy. Maddow seems to have both types on the run. She goes on air as if she's got nothing to prove, this despite the fact that she'll have done hours of preparation: a cheerful and clever geek, fluent in irony, alternately idealistic and sceptical, who doesn't believe in talking down to the viewers. Her aim? To raise the level of debate in America so that the right kind of decisions are made in the future.

From the beginning of her show, she made a policy decision to avoid the kind of bar-room slugging match which political programming in the United States is famous for. "I did that Punch and Judy stuff for so long on other people's shows. It may be kinetically entertaining but I don't think you learn very much in that environment." She's opted instead for arch analysis and informed banter. It's set a rigorous tone that has been surprisingly popular, somehow in tune with the tenor of the new administration. Within a week of the launch last September, she'd more than doubled the viewing figures. True - her timing couldn't have been better - everyone's viewing figures were enjoying a spike. However, she was regularly beating her CNN rival Larry King Live, a cable-news institution, in the sought-after, and elusive, 25- to 55-year-old demographic.

In the same way that Ann Coulter emerged as the public face of the Bush era, Maddow swiftly emerged as the go-to media figure in the most picked-over election in American history.

Suddenly on the net everyone was talking about their new girl crush. Here was someone on television with whom they connected; who, in the cosy familiarity that comes from being on screen five nights a week, they imagined that they could be friends with. They liked the fact that she can mix a mean cocktail, never shops for clothes and is more interested in her pick-up truck than lunchtime Botox injections. "My husband is in love with Rachel Maddow, I am in love with Rachel Maddow, my eight-year-old son is in love with Rachel Maddow," gushed one girl fan. Gay, straight, parents, teenagers, rabbis, Republicans: everyone, it seems, was smitten. One enterprising site began selling "Why I'm Gay For Rachel" T-shirts. As one commentator on Salon remarked: if the election campaign was indicating that America could be proved post-racial, maybe it could be post-gay too.

No one is more surprised by the attention than Maddow. "People are kind and flattering," she says, "but it is a remarkable and weird part of my life that I try not to dwell on. I try not to let it swell my head."

Two years ago she was a respected liberal pundit on the political news circuit, with a reputation for cheerfully slapping down ageing Republicans, but she didn't think she'd ever land a regular job on television, let alone her own show. She used to joke that she had a face made for radio. "I'm a big lesbian who looks like a man. I'm not Anchor Babe and I'm never going to be," she complained at the time. "I one hundred per cent believe that the reason I have not gone further in television is not only because I'm gay but because of what I look like."

Even now she says: "I don't honestly know why MSNBC hired me. I guess we got good ratings. We didn't suck. All of a sudden it seemed I might be able to co-host sometimes." The emphasis on the way she looks remains a frustration. (Under pressure to glam up, she's joked in the past that programme makers "would brooch me if they could".) She says: "I get exasperated. I don't think very much about my appearance and when I do it's not, how would you say ... strategic." She laughs. "But it's a visual medium and it really does matter what you look like. I don't care and I don't want to have to care. I want my appearance to be beside the point. My goal is to do the physical appearance stuff in such a way that it is not comment-worthy."

The irony is, perhaps, that part of her success is exactly because she doesn't look like all the other cookie-cutter women on television. She is 6ft tall and boyish (so much so that for a radio show stunt she was once persuaded to go out onto the street and ask people to guess what gender she was). "It's true. I am an unusual-looking person. Maybe people tell themselves: 'Well, she isn't getting by on her looks, for sure. Maybe she's got something to say.'"

The woman I meet after the show has reverted to skateboarding third grader as opposed to television personality. However, she's actually far more lovely-looking than she likes to make out. The make-up has been scrubbed away once again; the sensible grey jacket has, quite possibly, been rolled up into a ball and abandoned in the corner of her dressing room. She's been on the go since five o'clock this morning - before she starts preparing for her TV programme she will have recorded her daily show for the Air America radio station - and she is, she says, a little bit wired.

Only four weeks into the new television show Barack Obama's team called up saying that the Democratic candidate was willing to give her an interview. (She describes the new president as calm, confident, wonky. "I like wonky in a politician.") Last month she was part of the channel's high-profile inauguration team in Washington. "It's a pressure, now, having a hit show. It's the notion that people are really paying attention," she says. "A lot of the way I have proceeded through my broadcast life has been to pretend that it's just me and my conscience. I would study the material and essentially write an essay on a scrap of paper and memorise it. The fact that I am starting to cotton on to the fact that people can hear me is unsettling."

While she's eminently likeable - self-deprecating, quick to belly laugh, unfailingly polite, chummy even - I suspect she finds interviews a whole new layer of public exposure. She'd far rather ask a question than have to answer one. Ten years ago she was an academic and committed Aids activist, a graduate of Stanford and a Rhodes scholar, trying to finish her doctorate of philosophy in political science at Oxford University. She seemed, if anything, hellbent on a life as a serious campaigner and academic, as far from the media spotlight as possible. When she was awarded the Rhodes scholarship it's said she dyed her hair blue as a sign that she wasn't part of the establishment. At Oxford she disliked rarefied collegiate life so much so that she escaped to a squat in a basement flat near Arsenal football ground in London and took a job for an Aids charity. Back in America she relocated to a particularly remote part of Massachusetts, where she hoped she'd be miserable (she's still based there): "I figured if I wasn't happy I would get my doctorate finished."

To make ends meet she took odd jobs. "I was a waitress, bike messenger, bucket washer at a coffee-bean factory, yard help, landscaping labourer, handyman - I was very bad at that. I went for a job at a video store and got turned down because I didn't know enough about movies."

It was a friend who persuaded her to go for an audition as the sidekick for a morning show at the local radio station for a dare "and because we thought it might pay more than the minimum wage". As soon as she was on air, something clicked. "I'd never done anything like it before but I can remember thinking: 'I like this'." In the early days the station would make her do stunts like dress up as an inflatable calculator (how this worked on radio I'm not entirely sure). Ten years later she's being courted by the likes of Vanity Fair and Newsweek. She's clearly relishing having her own serious platform on which to debate the issues of the day, but the last thing she seems to be interested in is being on television for the sake of it. "I don't think being on television, in and of itself, has any value. The only reason to be on TV is to say something worthwhile."

While plenty of people in the media are coy about revealing their sexuality, not being out was never an option. "I've been out the majority of my life. I could not go back in," she says. "It would have looked very strange. It wasn't something I was going to lie about." As it happens, being at ease with who she is seems to have worked in her favour, because it comes across on air. However, it was not always thus. She grew up in Castro Valley which (despite being near San Francisco) was, she says, a narrow-minded kind of place where racism and homophobia were rife.

"I was a weird, depressive little kid who never really thought they would get to be an adult. I never thought I'd reach drinking age." Her father, a lawyer, had been in the air force, her mother was a school administrator. She doesn't recall the household being particularly bookish or academic. Her parents remember a daughter who somehow taught herself to read by the time she was four. As a teenager she had hopes of being an Olympic athlete until a run of injuries forced a rethink and she turned her attention to political activism instead. "I wouldn't wish a torn biceps tendon on anyone, but it was a blessing in disguise."

Before she knew she was gay, she'd volunteered at a centre for Aids services. This was 1987, six years after the first cases of Aids and HIV had come to public attention, at a time when the San Francisco area seemed to be at the epicentre of the tragedy that was unfolding. "I had a very acute sense that something was happening to 'my' people even before I knew I was gay. I was very moved by what was going on. Growing up in the Bay Area as a gay kid was devastating. It defined the world in a very serious way for me, in a life-or-death sort of way. I had a lot of older friends and many of them died. There was a sense of: look, your life is happening now. This may be all you get."

Maddow came out at Stanford, aged 17, six months after she realised she was gay. "I knew there was something. My whole childhood I knew there was something, but I didn't know it was that." The only other woman she knew who was gay was the daughter of a Liberian fundamentalist Christian minister. "I thought: if she can do it, so can I." However, appalled by the casual homophobia she'd encountered on campus, she outed herself by broadcasting the fact on handmade posters which she pinned up in all the bathrooms in the student accommodation in the sure knowledge that by the end of the day everyone would have seen the poster at least once.

"It was confrontational, funny, theatrical. On-my-own-terms aggressive." The student newspaper picked up the story; the next thing she knew someone had sent a cutting to her parents, who she hadn't yet told.

"By the time I got home it was really bad. But they are great now. They could not be more supportive. They talk to my girlfriend every day."

She met her partner Susan Mikula, a photographic artist, 10 years ago, when she was still broke and trying to finish her dissertation. Mikula, who is 15 years older than Maddow, had just bought a run-down, ramshackle house and needed help doing it up. "I drove out there, she answered the door, and it was love at first sight. I had never had a monogamous relationship. I had never wanted to. But this was different. We both had to extricate ourselves from other things. Fortunately it was mutual." Their first date was at a firing range. Despite living in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal, they have no plans to get married. "I believe in the right. I just don't think you have to exercise it. I like the idea of a subculture," she says, and pulls a face. "I'm not a weddings person."

The Rachel Maddow Show is plainly absorbing and all-encompassing - "I'm motivated by fear of failure and a desire to make my existence useful" - but if Mikula asked her to give up her media career, she would, she says. For now, her workload means that the couple divide the week - four nights together, three nights apart. On top of everything else, there's a book to write about America's relationship with war. Weekends are spent in the house where they first met. It's the only place, she says, where she really switches off. During the week she stays in their tiny tenement apartment - the size of a van, she says - in the West Village. She's lived there for four years and is rather proud of the fact that she's yet to use the oven, which she uses as a makeshift bookshelf instead.

Friends wish she'd find an apartment with a doorman, because for all the positive fan mail she receives there has also been an anti-gay reaction to her new high profile. "Most homophobic stuff has a violent tone to it. It's like: 'I'm going to kill you.' I get that all the time. I work predictable hours, so if someone was going to be really creepy ..." She pauses. "I don't enjoy being contactable. I purposely make it hard to contact me. I don't have a landline phone. I don't have an office phone. I don't open my own mail." All evening strangers have come up to congratulate this big-hearted, serious-minded woman on her show. The buzz around the media's latest darling seems to be real. As for reports of a post-gay America - they may be, for the moment at least, greatly exaggerated.

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Every day is "Women's Day"

Saudis order 40 lashes for elderly woman for mingling

Story Highlights
  • Saudi newspaper says religious officer found two men in Syrian woman's house
  • Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi said she breast-fed one of men when he was infant
  • Sawadi argues that under Islamic tradition, that makes man related to her
  • Men to receives lashes, too; case sparks outrage in conservative Saudi Arabia

CNN -- A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a 75-year-old Syrian woman to 40 lashes, four months imprisonment and deportation from the kingdom for having two unrelated men in her house, according to local media reports.

According to the Saudi daily newspaper Al-Watan, troubles for the woman, Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi, began last year when a member of the religious police entered her house in the city of Al-Chamli and found her with two unrelated men, "Fahd" and "Hadian."

Fahd told the policeman that he had the right to be there, because Sawadi had breast-fed him as a baby and was therefore considered to be a son to her in Islam, according to Al-Watan. Fahd, 24, added that his friend Hadian was escorting him as he delivered bread for the elderly woman. The policeman then arrested both men.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islam called Wahhabism and punishes unrelated men and women who are caught mingling.

The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, feared by many Saudis, is made up of several thousand religious policemen charged with duties such as enforcing dress codes, prayer times and segregation of the sexes. Under Saudi law, women face many restrictions, including a strict dress code and a ban on driving. Women also need to have a man's permission to travel.

Al Watan obtained the court's verdict and reported that it was partly based on the testimony of the religious police. In his ruling, the judge said it had been proved that Fahd is not the Sawadi's son through breastfeeding.

The court also doled out punishment to the two men. Fahd was sentenced to four months in prison and 40 lashes; Hadian was sentenced to six months in prison and 60 lashes. In a phone call with Al Watan, the judge declined to comment and suggested the newspaper review the case with the Ministry of Justice.

Sawadi told the newspaper that she will appeal, adding that Fahd is indeed her son through breastfeeding.

The case has sparked anger in Saudi Arabia.

"It's made everybody angry because this is like a grandmother," Saudi women's rights activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider told CNN. "Forty lashes -- how can she handle that pain? You cannot justify it."

This is not the first Saudi court case to cause controversy.

In 2007, a 19-year-old gang-rape victim in the Saudi city of Qatif was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison for meeting with an unrelated male. The seven rapists, who had abducted the woman and man, received sentences ranging from 10 months to five years in prison. The case sparked international outrage and Saudi King Abdullah subsequently pardoned the "Qatif Girl" and the unrelated male.

Many Saudis are hopeful that the Ministry of Justice will be reformed. Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz announced in February a major Cabinet reshuffling in which many hard-line conservatives, including the head of the commission, were dismissed and replaced with younger, more moderate members.

The new appointments represented the largest shakeup since King Abdullah took power in 2005 and were welcomed in Saudi Arabia as progressive moves on the part of the king, whom many see as a reformer. Among ministers who've been replaced is the minister of justice.

The actions of the religious police have come under increased scrutiny in Saudi Arabia recently, as more and more Saudis urge that the commission's powers be limited. Last week, the religious police detained two male novelists for questioning after they tried to get the autograph of a female writer, Halima Muzfar, at a book fair in Riyadh, the capital of the kingdom.

"This is the problem with the religious police," added Al-Huwaider, "watching people and thinking they're bad all the time. It has nothing to do with religion. It's all about control. And the more you spread fear among people, the more you control them. It's giving a bad reputation to the country."

View source article

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Happy Women's Day?

The shame of Iraq's pariah widows

Funeral in Iraq

By Mike Sergeant
BBC News, Baghdad

Her husband and three brothers were killed. Her parents were already dead. Her house was burnt down. She was pregnant at the time and lost the baby.

But, in the months that followed, Nadia Hussein had to endure much more.

Now she lives at a refuge for women in the centre of Baghdad.

She spends her days feeding the pigeons and cooking. It's a place for her to escape the many dangers widows face in Iraq.

'Nephew beat me'

"After my husband died, I found work as a house keeper," she told me.

"A man and his brother tried to make advances on me. They tried to sexually assault me. I refused.

Widow Nadia
Nadia's Hussein's ordeal is an all too familiar story for Iraqi widows
"My nephew, who is an alcoholic, also used to beat me and accuse me of bad things."

Nadia said the people at the refuge are now her only family. But she still asks for their approval before doing anything or going anywhere.

Her story is not particularly unusual. Accurate figures are hard to obtain, but even before the invasion in 2003, there were hundreds of thousands of widows in Iraq.

Many lost husbands in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. At the height of the violence of recent years, up to 100 women a day were becoming widows.

Almost everywhere you go in Baghdad, you can see them begging at traffic lights and outside mosques - dressed from head to toe in black.

The women are supposed to be given just over $1 (£0.70) a day from the government.

But a survey by the charity Oxfam has discovered that less than a quarter actually get the money.

'Will of God'

Many face physical and sexual abuse. Some are told to marry men who already have wives.

Iraqi widow Umm Harith
My husband always wanted me to be a suicide bomber
Umm Harith

Shia tradition also permits "temporary marriages" - which only last for a matter of days or weeks.

A few widows have themselves wanted to die violently - there have been many attacks by female suicide bombers.

Umm Harith was trained to carry one out but she backed away from going through with it.

"When my husband died I felt very isolated," she said. "He always wanted me to be a suicide bomber.

"When he was killed, I wanted to blow myself up. I wanted to kill the people who took away the person who was most precious to me."

Most of the widows we spoke to in Baghdad, though, do not seem to be interested in revenge.

They accept what has happened to them as the "will of God".

Indeed those who campaign on their behalf say one of the hardest things is getting the widows to think that they deserve better lives.

"It's not just about legislation," said Hana Adwar, a campaigner for women's rights.

"The problem is the way people behave inside the family. The question is how to change attitudes and behaviour towards them."

Nightclub dancers

She estimates that 40% of all prostitutes in Iraq are widows.

Improvements in security have certainly led to some shady opportunities for those who have lost their husbands and income. Nightclubs have started to reopen in Baghdad.

We visited one of them. The scene would previously have been unthinkable.

Widow Haifa Raheem
It's so difficult for women and girls to walk around freely - because of our traditions and our culture
Haifa Raheem

Men were sitting around drinking alcohol, listening to music and being entertained by women dancing.

Involvement in any of those activities a couple of years ago could have got you killed in Iraq.

I talk to the singer who works there. He says women are employed just to dance and talk to the customers.

But he tells me there are many other nightclubs in Baghdad where widows will leave with men for the right price.

There are a few places in this city where the women can get help.

At one centre, they are being taught the skills they need to find jobs - like IT and nursing.

Many are illiterate, though, and jobs are hard to come by.

The support available is dwarfed by the scale of the problem.

Just 120 - of the many tens of thousands who lost husbands since 2003 - have been given somewhere to live at a trailer park on the outskirts of Baghdad.


Haifa Raheem is one of them.

Inside her aluminium trailer, there is almost no furniture and just a few mats on the floor.

She lives here with her seven children and her mother. The family is almost entirely dependent on handouts.

"It's horribly hot in the summer," she said. "Staying here is better than nothing.

"But it's so difficult for women and girls to walk around freely - because of our traditions and our culture."

There's talk of passing new laws, and finding extra money for the hundreds of thousands of widows.

But campaigners say what they need more than anything is more respect in Iraqi society.

View source article

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Nepalese Women Free From War but Not Violence
Rosalie Hughes, Reuters AlertNet: "As Ashmi's belly grew, so did the insults. Eventually they turned violent. A female neighbour spat on her. Two boys she'd grown up with pelted her with rocks on her way home from school one day. She no longer felt safe in her village. Her growing belly reminded her that two lives were in danger. When she was three months pregnant, Ashmi followed the advice of a community-based organisation and left her village for a women's shelter in the capital Kathmandu. Ashmi's story embodies the hundreds of stories represented in a recently released report by the International Rescue Committee, United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) and Saathi, a Nepali NGO. The report looks at gender-based violence in two districts of mid-west Nepal, through interviews with over 400 women and focus group discussions with men, women and children."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Women playing a 'man's game'

Published: March 4, 2009
In Turkey, women’s soccer teams are trying to gain a foothold as they struggle against a deep ambivalence about women playing the game.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Myf - Levi's by David Vasiljevic

Myf Shepherd for Levi's 501's campaign, shot by David Vasiljevic in London.

Protecting Afghan Women from Abuse

Published: March 3, 2009
Advocates are fighting entrenched traditions of forced marriage by providing shelters for abused women.