The yoga class I took just before last night’s State of the Union (SOTU) address wiped me out. I fell asleep immediately afterward. Which is good because I had a chance to think overnight about the parts that resonated most with me.
I’ve been tough on the president in the past, disappointed with his timidity and unwillingness to set a big bold agenda.
“As an activist for women through almost four decades, I know that no movement for social justice moves forward without struggle, nor does forward movement necessarily go in a straight line.”
Today, March 8, is celebrated around the globe as International Women’s Day. Some decry its commercialization, as corporate sponsors have realized it’s in their best interests to appeal to women who make over 85 percent of consumer purchases around the globe.
But it’s a day whose meaning inspires me to think back to a very special moment on September, 1995.
I was attending the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, where hugely ambitious and thrilling goals were set for improving the lives of women, and by extension their families and the world.
The official conference was in Beijing, but the much larger convocation of activists from nongovernmental organizations—40,000 enthusiastic women and a few good men like my husband—was literally stuck in the mud in Huairu, a suburb an hour’s drive from the city.
Thousands of sleepy people had arrived at dawn on the morning of Sept. 6, to stand packed together under a roof of brightly colored umbrellas, jockeying for the few hundred seats inside the auditorium where then first lady of the United States Hillary Clinton was slated to give a speech.
Thanks to my training in clinic defense, which had taught me how to form a wedge and move expeditiously through even the most aggressive crowd, I was fortunate not only to get inside but to get a seat. The program was running late; Hillary was running even later and the crowd was getting restless.
Just as it seemed a revolt might be brewing, Shirley May Springer Stanton, the cultural coordinator of the conference, sauntered onto the stage and began to sing a capella, ever so softly: “Gonna keep on moving forward. Never turning back, never turning back.”
My grandmother used to say: “The rich suffer too but they suffer in comfort.”
Apparently for the wealthy deposed IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, suffering in comfort won’t come easy. He has been denied the right to live in one comfortable NY apartment after another as a consequence of his alleged sexual assault upon a hotel maid.
Without making judgments about “DSK” who will soon enough have his day(s) in court, I take this shunning as a positive sign that the world is awakening to the dirty big secret of sexual abuse, which is almost always perpetrated by men against women they perceive as less powerful than themselves.
As further proof of this awakening, this week, Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, and Mairead Maguire are leading a conference to addresses sexual violence in conflict regions at the Nobel Women’s Initiative Conference. The conference is entitled Women Forging a New Security: Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict and includes over 120 leaders from around the world.
The highlight of the conference will be Thursday’s online day of action, which will seek to target governments and pressure them to give sexual violence the attention it deserves. The link provides several ways for women around the world to participate, and I would love to hear if any of you, Heartfeldt readers, take part.
I’m hoping that in light of the many kinds of sexual abuse, harassment, and just plain bad behavior that has dominated the media in the last few weeks, these influential Nobel Laureates will address a broader range of abuse issues than those that occur in areas of conflict, and will use their platform to connect the dots among the various ways sexual violence and harassment are used to maintain gender inequality.
Check out today’s guest post on 9 Ways. It comes to us from The Population Institute. I highlight it because the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day is being celebrated at events around the world today. The best way I can think of to celebrate IWD is to petition the U.S. Congress and other world leaders to make good on their commitments to fund international family planning. In No Excuses, I show why reproductive self-determination is essential for women to have any other kind of power. But the Republicans are trying to eliminate or drastically cut family planning funds in the U.S. and globally. The political and social justice consequences of such a short sighted policy are stunning.
Watch this video called “Empty Handed” to see just some of the reasons why you’ll want to join me in signing the petition and become one of a million for a billion–telling Congress to fully fund international family planning:
As Egypt continues to roil with change and I receive news daily about the UN Commission on the Status of Women 55th session that will convene in New York starting February 22, my No Excuses focus on women in the U.S. is shifting to global mode. And when my fabulous feminist journalist friend Lynn Harris told me about her work with the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, I immediately asked if I could share it with you. Please read her post below, let us know your thoughts, and if you’re moved to action you’ll find out how you can help.
My friend Tamara Kreinin (pictured here), who is executive director of the United Nations Foundation Women and Population program, sent me several e-mails during the last couple of weeks announcing that she was about to begin blogging. Seemed a little quaint that she was fretting about whether she was getting the art of the blogpost right, given that I get messages from e-consultants daily telling me blogging is already dead.
Well, you and I know blogging is alive and well. So all of you who can’t fit an entire story into a 140-character tweet or a text, please join me in welcoming Tamara to the international league of bloggers. I am delighted to cheer on the inspiring new girls’ movement she’s initiated by re-publishing her first blogpost as a guest post here at Heartfeldt. If you want to help the Girlution in the U.S. and overseas, check out the Girl Up website to learn how.
This article was originally published in Businesswire. Whatever works . . .
A coalition of global investors, managing over US $73 billion in assets, called on companies across the world today to increase representation of qualified women on boards of directors and in senior management. The call from Pax World, Calvert and Walden Asset Management, comes in response to a survey of 4,200 global companies that found only 9.4 percent of directors on corporate boards were women.
These findings have led a number of mainstream investors to identify gender balance and diversity as a strategic issue in their investment activity. The investors in this new coalition have asked 54 selected companies from across the business spectrum for greater clarity about gender balance within their organizations.
“We view gender equality and women’s empowerment as strategic business and investment issues,” said Joe Keefe, President and CEO of Pax World. “When women are at the table, the discussion is richer, the decision-making process is better, management is more innovative and collaborative and the organization is stronger. Because companies that advance and empower women are, in our view, better long-term investments, we are encouraging companies in our portfolios to enhance their performance on gender issues.”
The investor initiative is a response to the Women’s Empowerment Principles1 recently developed by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the United Nations Global Compact. The Women’s Empowerment Principles are designed to help companies take specific steps to advance and empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.
My guest post today is about a very important topic I intended to write about–but my colleague Linda Tarr-Whelan has already said it all better in a post she wrote for the National Council for Research on Women’s “The Real Deal” blog. It’s embarrassing as well as just plain wrong that the U.S. is one of just seven nations that never signed onto the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Want to know the six other nations? They are Iran, Nauru, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, and Tonga –overall not very good company!
This week has been declared a Week of Action by a coalition of U.S. organizations working to get our country to enter 21st century and sign CEDAW. So to the U.S. Congress: Sign already!
Regular Courageous Leadership contributor Anne Doyle sent me the link to this inspiring article by journalist Diane Tucker. Entitled “In Iraq, Women Entrepreneurs Staring a New Kind of Insurgency,” the piece is a good illustration of how financial resources underlie the capacity to achieve independence and elevate their status in society. It’s this kind of social change that also contributes to building a stronger democracy.
Tucker interviewed an American woman of Indian descent Amber Chand. Chand–who grew up in a wealthy family that lost everything when she was a child and later became an entrepreneur herself, is teaching Iraqi women, as well as women in Afghanistan and other countries in distress, how to become successful businesswomen. Here’s the story in her words.
In the last week of October, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made headlines and sparked anger in travels to Israel and Pakistan. Her role some weeks earlier was less controversial yet critically important, as she led UN diplomats forward in an action that could ease the suffering of countless women and girls living in conflict zones around the world.
Last year, the United Nations classified the deliberate use of rape as a tactic of war and a major threat to international security. On September 30, 2009, the Security Council went one step further.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chaired the session as the Security Council unanimously adopted a U.S. sponsored resolution (S/Res/1888) that called for the appointment of a special envoy charged with coordinating the efforts to combat the use of rape as a weapon of war and assist governments in ending impunity for the perpetrators. Having met with women who survived rape and violence in her recent visit to the Congo, Clinton said in remarks to the council, “The dehumanizing nature of sexual violence doesn’t just harm a single individual or a single family or even a single village or a single group. It shreds the fabric that weaves us together as human beings.”