Healing for the Women of Afghanistan

by Guest on May 22nd, 2009
in International

Thanks to Gerardine Luongo for this guest post about what powered women can do for our sisters.

For almost three decades Afghan women were hidden under burquas and in homes they could not leave without a male escort. The impact of this oppression is evidenced by the horrifyingly high maternal and infant death rates among Afghan women. Indeed, each day 44 Afghan women will die giving birth.

During the rule of the Taliban (1996 – 2001), women were treated worse than in any other time or by any other society. They were forbidden to work, leave the house without a male escort, not allowed to seek medical help from a male doctor and not allowed to practice medicine! Women who were emerging leaders of their nation –doctors, teachers, lawyers were forced into horrific conditions.

But despite many gains in Afghanistan, women continue to lag behind their male peers in health and education status. Today, less than 20% of girls attend school regularly, 1-in-8 women die giving birth, child-brides and the sale of women into marriage are still common, victims of rape are stoned for shaming the family and no Afghan court will condemn an Afghan man for domestic violence. We have only to imagine what will be the impact on women’s health of spending five or more years literally without sunlight and natural vitamin D.

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Hillary Clinton Versus Chris Smith: No Contest

by Gloria Feldt on April 24th, 2009
in International, Reproductive Health


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Afghanistan to Alaska–Who Respects Women Less?

by Gloria Feldt on April 19th, 2009
in International, Women & Politics

The Twitterati loudly retweeted their rightful shock this past week as women around the internet e-mailed one another to organize protests against Afghan president Karzai’s signing a law a that allows fundamentalist Muslims to enforce Sharia, including requirements that women must submit to sex with their husbands at least every four days, thus effectively legalizing marital rape.

Meanwhile, 300 courageous Afghan women exercised their right to protest this barbaric law by staging a public march to their capital. They were met with over 1,000 counter-protesters, some of whom threw stones, spat, and called them whores, which tells you exactly where their stupidly misogynist heads are.

For those who want a way to voice their opposition immediately, here’s an action you can take to persuade President Obama to act on his statement that this law is intolerable. And here’s how to deliver the same message via text to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

But lest we in the U.S. become too self-righteous, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s nomination of far-right attorney and her longtime Hummer (what else?)-driving political ally Wayne Anthony Ross for attorney general is clear evidence that the same misogynistic strains are yet to be rooted out here.

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The Yanks Are Coming–Back–Now What?

by Gloria Feldt on April 9th, 2009
in International, Reproductive Health, Women's Rights

The road to the international agreements forged in Cairo and Beijing was long and fraught with cultural potholes, but nothing like the challenges that our own government placed in the path of women’s reproductive self-determination. Now, there’s been a 180 degree turn back to the future, and the world is relieved. But other countries have moved forward, so what’s the next step for the U.S.?

Linda Hirshman, author of Get to Work and columnist for Slate’s new XX among many other accomplishments, and I wrote this commentary. After we were rejected by the New York Times and the Washington Post (what else is new?), we decided it was too important an issue not to see the light of day. So we’re publishing it on RHREalityCheck, Huffington Post, and here on good ol’ Heartfeldt.

At the very moment the Obama administration’s decision to seek a U.S. seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council grabbed headlines, the United States quietly took the reins on the most important human rights issue for humanity’s future: sexual and reproductive rights. On March 31, State Department Acting Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration, Margaret Pollack, told delegates to the United Nations Commission on Population and Development, meeting in New York, that America was back.

Marking a 180 degree turnaround from Bush administration policies that fought international efforts to enable people to control their own reproductive fate, the U.S. will once again defend the “human rights and fundamental freedoms of women” and support “universal access to sexual and reproductive health.” Abstinence-only sex education, the bête noir of health providers attempting to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, was Kung-Fu kicked aside. Human rights apply to all regardless of sexual orientation. The U.S. commits to ratify CEDAW, the women’s rights treaty already signed by 185 nations, and even endorses “equal partnerships and sharing of responsibilities in all areas of family life, including in sexual and reproductive life.”

The global sigh of relief was palpable. For with all its money and diplomatic resources, the U.S. is the 10,000 gorilla in international reproductive policy. Now the question is, while this is certainly change we can believe in, is it all the change we need?

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This is What Winning an Election Will Do

by Gloria Feldt on April 3rd, 2009
in International

Madam Chair,

I am honored to be here today to express the renewed and deep commitment of the United States Government to the goals and aspirations of the ICPD Program of Action. President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and Ambassador Rice as well as the United States Congress, have already acted strongly to support women’s and young people’s health, human rights, and empowerment; global partnership; and the wider development agenda embraced by the Program of Action.

These opening lines of the U.S. government’s official statement, so calmly delivered March 31 by Margaret J. Pollack, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, and Head of the United States Delegation to the United Nations Commission on Population and Development, belied the sea change they represent in U.S. relationship with the United Nations in general and in particular with the global consensus reached at the ICPD in Cairo fifteen years ago that women’s human rights and health, including reproductive rights and health, are central to global economic development, poverty reduction, environmental sustainability, and global security.

Pollack, a career civil servant who has worked in the State Department under both Republican and Democratic administrations referred to herself in an interview with me last week as “the lantern in the cave” simply delivering the current administration’s message that the U.S. is going “back to the future”–i.e., the one when Bill Clinton was president–in our policies and leadership for women’s rights globally.

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How to Reverse That “Perverse Cosmic Myopia”

by Guest on March 21st, 2009
in International

Guest blog today by Jane Roberts, cofounder 34 Million Friends of the United Nations Population Fund and author of the book “34 Million Friends of the Women of the World”. Though written in present and future tense terms, the post reminds us that we can rewrite the history of women’s global economic and reproductive subjugation.

The term PERVERSE COSMIC MYOPIA (PCM) was used by David Brooks in a New York Times column on March 20, 2009 which intimated that the world economic and financial crisis was so bad that President Obama needed to concentrate his attention on this single tiger sinking its teeth into the world’s neck and forego at least for now health care, energy, immigration, and education.

To me PCM is a fitting term for only one all encompassing area of concern. Gender inequality, the neglect of women’s and girls’education, health, economic empowerment, and human rights, and the coming 9.1 billion people on the planet by 2050, fighting over resources and for survival, and living on a planet with a down-spiraling environment, now that, and only that is COSMIC!

Hillary Clinton at her Senate confirmation hearings: Of particular concern to me is the plight of women and girls who comprise the majority of the world’s unhealthy, unschooled, unfed, and unpaid.

Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations: In women the world has the most significant but untapped potential for development and peace.

Stephen Lewis, former U.N. ambassador to Africa for AIDS: I challenge you to enter the fray against gender inequality. There is no more honorable or productive calling. There is nothing of greater import in the world. All roads lead from women to social change.

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Goosebumps Over Dipnotes

by Gloria Feldt on March 7th, 2009
in International

I was over at the UN last week. Staffers from a variety of countries mentioned how great it feels to the international community to know that the US is back–resuming its rightful place in among the member countries of the United Nations. One woman said to me that she goes around these days smiling and saying “Yes, we can!”

What gave me goose bumps? Being reminded what a profound impact Hillary Clinton is making as Secretary of State–and a SOS who understands and prioritizes women in her approach to the rest of the world at that– when I signed onto my Twitter account (I’m Heartfeldt if you want to follow me) a moment ago and saw the following tweet from Dipnotes, the Department of State’s blog name and Twitter handle.

Question of the Week: How Best Can Women’s Rights Be Expanded Internationally?

The world recognizes March 8 as International Women’s Day. During her recent travel to the Middle East, Secretary Clinton met with women who are developing their own businesses through a microcredit program. Promoting women’s economic and political participation is an important element of U.S. foreign policy and a key component of democratic development.

Yes, indeed we can!

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Appeasement is Lethal

by Gloria Feldt on October 3rd, 2007
in International, Reproductive Health

Rosaura “Rosie” Jiménez died bleeding and doubled over in excruciating pain from infection caused by the botched illegal abortion she sought in desperation. She was 27, a scholarship student in McAllen, Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border, six months shy of getting her teaching credential and struggling to make a better life for herself and her 5-year-old daughter when she was caught in a vise called the Hyde Amendment. This law denied her, as it has denied millions of low income women who depend on Medicaid for their health care, financial access to a safe abortion.

Rosie’s life was sacrificed on the altar of politically expedient appeasement.

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U.S.-Mexico Border Crossings Go Both ways

by Gloria Feldt on October 2nd, 2007
in International, Reproductive Health

Mention the U.S.-Mexico border and you set off political hot buttons. Everyone knows the two countries share complex historical, economic, and cultural relationships. But one relationship is seldom acknowledged: the movement of women across the border in both directions to obtain abortions over the years.

Sarah was a 22-year-old law school student at the University of Texas when she became pregnant in 1964. Her future husband was planning to attend law school after she graduated and got a job. They agreed they didn’t want to have a child before marriage and felt they both deserved the chance to finish school. Together, they went to Piedras Negras across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas, where she had an illegal, but thankfully safe, abortion.

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