Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Female Police Director Killed

From USA Today:
"Two gunmen on a motorbike shot and killed a high-ranking woman police official in Afghanistan's largest southern city Sunday, officials said.

Malalai Kakar was traveling from her home in Kandahar city to the office Sunday when she was shot, said Zalmai Ayubi, spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor. Her son, 18, was wounded in the attack, he said.

Kakar, 41, was the head of the department of crimes against women in Kandahar city, Ayubi said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility.

Militants frequently attack projects, schools and businesses run by women. The hard-line Taliban regime, which was ousted in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, did not allow women outside the home without a male escort."

Child Marriage - Part IV

From the Mail Online:

"British children as young as nine are being forced to marry against their will by their families, campaigners have warned.

Thousands of Britons - mainly young women from the Asian communities - are thought to be victims of forced marriage each year, but concerns are increasingly focused on the plight of underage girls who are being offered for marriage to foreign men when they have barely left primary school.

No accurate figures exist for the scale of the problem, although the Government's Forced Marriage Unit has helped rescue around 60 children aged 15 or under in the past four years - including 11 so far in 2008 - and experts fear that may represent only the tip of the iceberg.
Typically victims are taken overseas by their families on a false pretext and forced to marry.

Extreme cases where women rebel against their family's plans and try to run away have led to so-called 'honour killings' or suicides.

Ministers angered campaigners two years ago by dropping plans to make it a criminal offence to force someone to marry, after Muslim groups objected strongly to the plans."

Politics & Power in Israel

From the News Observer:
"Women already lead the courts and the legislature. The most important and visible piece, the executive, could soon follow suit.

In the heart of the Middle East, the region where women experience some of the most oppressive restrictions in the world, Israel could soon have a woman, Tzipi Livni, as prime minister, alongside the current Supreme Court Chief Dorit Beinish and Speaker of the Parliament Dalia Itzik.

If you had asked political experts to predict where democracy might sweep women to power, Israel would not have figured near the top of the list. Despite legal equality, most levers of power have usually stayed in the hands of men. Prime Minister Golda Meir's tenure four decades ago was the major exception.

In a democracy with true equality, the fact that Livni is a woman would not be a factor, positive or negative, in her election. Feminist fantasies that women would rule the world differently than men cannot be proven in what is still a male-dominated globe, and previous cases have offered mixed evidence.

If Israel's government does end up having three branches led by women, it may not change the world, and will not guarantee good government. But it will mark an achievement for democracy and highlight how much potential other countries sacrifice when they exclude half of their population from the political system.

As for the Israeli women who have made it this far, all we can say is, You go, girls!"

Please read the full article by Frida Ghitis above.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Women in Prison

From "Women News Network":

"Women's Prisons: A Global State of Crises"
"For nine years, Atwood photographed and documented the conditions for women in 40 women’s prisons worldwide including the US, Europe and Eastern Europe.

Conditions of improper touching by persons of authority, sanctioned sexual harassment, unnecessary strip searches, lack of proper medical attention or proper food exists in numerous global prison locations. In addition to this, psychological coercion and/or threats of sexual assault by persons in authority create a constant, unending and intense universal pressure on many incarcerated women.

Penal institutions in Canada, Australia, Russia, Mexico, Bolivia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United States also have great needs for programs that will bring improvements for women prisoners. Women are too often left juggling harsh and unrelenting conditions in prison. Left without voice or power, without legal advocates, without opportunity or education."

You must read this entire article, which details the conditions of women in prison from around the globe in countries such as the US, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Canada, Mexico, Russia, and Estonia.

International Day of the Girl Child

How did you acknowledge this day on Wednesday??

Ms Meena Batra, Programme Director - Swabhiman said:
"We will continue our fight against all the odds present in the society which chases female from birth to death and do not allow them to grow in life."

CRY Website:
CRY (Child Rights and You) earlier known as Child Relief and You is India's leading advocate for child rights. Over the last three decades, CRY has partnered with NGOs, communities, government, the media and is dedicated to mobilize all sections of society to eliminate the root cause of deprivation, exclusion, exploitation and abuse.

"While highlighting known symbols of discrimination -- foeticide being the most prominent, the site explores the real reasons behind it, the social structures and patriarchy that perpetuate this. Celebrated as daughters, mothers and sisters, the girl is lost to these roles and the individual behind these roles takes a backseat.

CRY works to ensure all children their right to live, learn, play and develop their full potential. However, given the situation of the girl child, she is more vulnerable to violation of rights. At CRY, we believe the girl is a child first and that gender is merely descriptive. Yet statistics show that girls have not fared well so far, and this is not due to their lack of capability, but because people around incapacitate her.

Discrimination takes many forms - sex determination and foeticide even before birth to denial of education, nutrition, healthcare as the girl child is growing up to be a woman."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Decline in "Women's Rights"

From The Australian:
"Women's rights are dwindling across Europe, anti-globalisation activists warned, blaming growing religious extremism and neo-liberalism.

The trend has been observed across the continent and even in Sweden, a country normally seen as a pioneer in gender equality issues, Maria Hagberg, a Swedish member of the European Feminist Initiative (EFI) network, said.

"We have seen a backlash in recent years in Europe and also in Sweden, which is known as the most egalitarian country in the world, but that is only on the surface," Ms Hagberg said on the sidelines of the European Social Forum being held in the southern Swedish city of Malmoe.

The decline of women's rights is a phenomenon taking place across Europe, said Soad Bekkouche, a representative of the French group Laicite (Secularity).

"We see it clearly in everyday life," Ms Bekkouche said. Ms Hagberg said that in Sweden earlier strides were now being threatened due to politics and legislation, and pointed to a rise in violence against women.

Five years ago, 20,000 acts of violence against women were reported, a number that has since grown to 30,000, she said.

The growing inequality affects immigrant women in particular, said Soleyman Ghasemiani, a social worker originally from Iran and now living in Sweden's second biggest city Gothenburg.

Paradoxically, authorities' desire to display tolerance and respect of immigrants' religions and culture could be accentuating the phenomenon.

"The Swedish authorities and politicians have a lot of respect for religions and traditions and they think it's not possible to criticise Islam," he said.

Butin so doing they were playing into the hands of religious fundamentalists who want to suppress women's rights.

He linked the decline in women's rights in Sweden in part to the centre-right government's arrival in power in 2006.

"The conservatives have more power now. There are more religious schools than five or 10 years ago (and) they get (state) subsidies. I am worried because I see a backlash on the ground," said Mr Ghasemiani, who has lived in Sweden for 24 years.

"You have people who are teaching their daughters that to be a good daughter is to stay at home," he said.

Ms Bekkouche said that across Europe, both "immigrant women and local women face the same problems amid the rise of religious extremism and neo-liberalism".

She cited the case of Polish women who could previously get legal abortions in their country, which is no longer the case. In the former eastern bloc country, contraception was now "virtually inexistant", she lamented.

"When we see the criminalisation (of abortion) in Ireland and Malta, the battle is not won."

She also expressed concern over growing poverty among women, in particular single mothers.

Ms Bekkouche stressed that legislation aimed at creating parity between the sexes did not automatically improve women's rights.

"Legislators want us to believe that women are making strides in European countries by adopting laws on parity. ... These are minor laws," she insisted.

Some 20,000 activists and 850 associations, non-governmental organisations, unions and other networks are taking part in 250 seminars and hundreds of cultural events being held in Malmoe through Sunday, based on the theme "Making another Europe possible". "

"Queen Bee' Syndrome

From The Mail Online:
"University researchers say women who have to answer to a female supervisor feel more stressed than if their superior is male.

They suffer from far more depression, insomnia, headaches and heartburn than if their boss is a man. But for male workers, the sex of their manager makes no difference.

The Canadian team, which studied 1,800 U.S. workers, reckoned the explanation could lie in Queen Bee syndrome, in which successful women do not like to be surrounded by competitors of the same sex.

The University of Toronto scientists also suggested that many females do not like to be led by women because they see leadership as a traditionally male role. This could be the reason why U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton failed to get her party's nomination - or why Segolene Royal lost last year's French presidential election.

For the research, stress levels and the physical health of workers were compared in three situations: working for one male boss, for one female boss, and those working for one of each.

The study found that women who have a lone female supervisor suffer far more than those who have a male boss.

They reported more psychological distress (such as trouble sleeping, difficulty focusing on work, depression and anxiety) and physical symptoms (like headaches, stomach pain or heartburn, neck and back pain, and tiredness).

But women who worked for a lone male supervisor had far fewer symptoms. And those who worked for one of each were somewhere in the middle.

For the male workers, however, there was no difference in level of distress, no matter whether his boss was male or female. However, men who worked for a mixed-gender pair had fewer mental and physical problems than those who worked for a man and woman alone.

Scott Schieman, author of the study, said the differences may be because of stereotypes that it is more 'normal' for men to be leaders and display typical leadership characteristics.

So while a woman might expect a male boss to be aggressive and demanding, they may not expect this behaviour from a female supervisor. They might expect more emotional support from a female boss - and be unhappy when they do not get it, but instead find some women 'manage more like men, which can be more conflictive or combative'.

Another possibility is that women tend to work in different jobs, skewing the results. 'It may be that something about the nature of the work itself is influencing these health differences,' Dr Schieman told the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour.

'For example, women working with a woman supervisor might tend to be found mostly in the caring sector or in jobs that tend to be under-resourced, under-funded and under-valued, such as social work or education, creating stress both for the workers themselves and stress for the boss that might trickle down to her subordinates.

'These are speculative points that need to be investigated further.'

Other research has blamed Queen Bee syndrome for conflict-between women at work.

A recent German study found that women in power tended to regard female subordinates as less dedicated than men - because they want to protect their own interests. "

Women in Yemen

From IRIN News:
"Much more needs to be done to improve the status of women in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula, in line with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), officials said.

The call came during a roundtable in Sanaa, the capital, on 21 September. CEDAW presented 60 recommendations in July after reviewing Yemen's sixth periodic report for 2006 on the extent of implementation, which was prepared by the National Women's Committee (NWC), a government body.

Pratibha Mehta, UN Resident Coordinator in Yemen, said the 2007 World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Index, which measures women's economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment vis-Ã -vis men, ranked Yemen last out of 128 countries.

"Women constitute only 30 percent of the workforce and 70 percent of women in Yemen are illiterate," Mehta said.

She said the gap between men and women was very wide in terms of political empowerment and economic participation, but narrow in terms of primary education enrolment, with 63 percent of school age girls enrolled compared with 87 percent of boys.

Mehta added that a greater effort was needed to inculcate the values of gender equity among the society that too often viewed the women's rights agenda as "a western import".

Yemen signed CEDAW in May 1984 and presented two national reports on the level of implementation at an exceptional UN assembly in August 2002.

CEDAW said Yemen's constitution did not enshrine the principle of equality between women and men in all spheres and its legislation did not contain an explicit definition of the principle of equality between the two sexes.

It urged Yemen to implement a comprehensive law on gender equality binding on both public and private sectors and inform women of their rights under such legislation. It recommended Yemen address stereotypical attitudes about the roles and responsibilities of women and men that perpetuate direct and indirect discrimination against women and girls in all areas.

It further said several provisions of the Penal Code discriminated against women and urged Yemen to repeal any such discriminatory provisions in the Code.

Participants said there were various social, religious and political factors responsible for women's low status. Discriminatory legislature was seen as a major hindrance to the improvement of women's status.

Horiah Mash-hor, deputy head of the NWC, said her committee had amended many discriminatory laws and referred them to the parliament, which had ratified nine amended items of various laws between 2003 and 2008. "But there are still 61 amended items that need to be agreed by the parliament," she said.

Jamila al-Raebi, deputy health minister in charge of population, said her ministry had asked to withdraw the Safe Motherhood Law from the Parliament's Islamic Sharia Codification Committee as it refused to agree on the law, which included provisions prohibiting female genital mutation, early marriage and included pre-marriage consultation.

"Early pregnancy is responsible for 30 percent of maternal deaths," she said.

She said it was necessary to highlight health implications when talking about issues such as early marriage or FGM. "People can be convinced if the health risks are brought out instead of highlighting the cultural and religious side," she said.

On the issue of women's empowerment, Amal al-Basha, chairwoman of the Sisters Arab Forum, a local NGO, said some mosques had become platforms against the rights of women, although they could play a greater role in advocating women's issues. "There are extremist preachers who stand against women's issues ... They accuse the civil society organisations that advocate for women's issues of being agents of the West and standing against Islam and Islamic Sharia," she said.

She further noted that religion must not be used to "silence us on speaking about our rights".

Huda al-Yafyei, an official at the Ministry of Endowments and Guidance, said the problem did not lie in Islam, mosques or laws, but rather in illiteracy, which is very high. "Women are unaware of their rights," she said.

She has said there were 75,000 mosques in the country that could be centres of enlightenment.

"We are also about to hold a series of workshops to promote women's rights guaranteed in Islam," she added."

Female President - Golden Shears Society

From The New Zealand Herald:
"The Golden Shears Society has got its first woman president.

Dannevirke businesswoman Mavis Mullins has been named to lead the society towards its 50th birthday in 2010.

Mrs Mullins and her husband Koro jointly own a shearing company.

She is a past winner the Golden Shears open woolhandling championship in 1987 and 1992.

In 2005 she became the first woman to manage a New Zealand shearing and woolhandling team, bringing back two titles from the world championships in Australia ."

Reform in Lebanon

From The Daily Star:
"Women's groups called for reform of the parliamentary electoral law, including the introduction of a quota system to ensure 30 percent of Parliament members are female, lowering the voting age and an end to the confessional system. Speaking at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) center in Beirut, the coordinator of "The National Conference for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women," Azza Hor-Mroue, outlined the group's proposed electoral reforms and stated their objection to the adoption of the 1960 electoral law.

Marie Nassif-Debs, an active member of the National Conference, described the organization as an umbrella body that brought together 60 NGOs, including many involved in women's issues, trade unions and youth-based organizations.

he organization has called for the introduction of a quota to ensure 30 percent of parliamentary delegates elected during the 2009 parliamentary elections are female. The group argued this is in keeping with Article 4 of the UN Convention of the Elimination of Discrimination against Women that encourages states to take "temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women." "

Doctor "James Barry" - The Movie

From The Daily Mail:
"Natascha McElhone's husband Martin Kelly was known for his pioneering work in reconstructive plastic surgery.

Before his death in May this year he set up Facing The World, a charity dedicated to helping children with complex medical conditions.

Now the actress is set to honour her late husband's profession in a poignant role as a surgeon who changed history.

The 36-year-old will play James Miranda Berry in a screen version of the surgeon's life called Heaven on Earth.

Berry made history when she disguised herself as a man to graduate as a doctor in 1812 and later became the first UK doctor to perform a Caesarean section.

McElhone told The Observer: 'Barry defied every convention of her time. She disguised herself as a man to attend medical school, then excelled in an entirely male world, achieving the highest position possible for a military surgeon.

'She was a fearless pioneer, pushing the frontiers of accepted medical practice to find new and effective ways of treating her patients, always putting her own safety and popularity at risks.'

The part will be more meaningful following the unexpected death of husband Kelly this year.

Kelly, 43, was found collapsed in the hall of the couple's £2.5million townhouse in London, just after performing a late-night operation.

Friends say she had planned the role before her husband's death and planned to learn more about surgery from him.

Filming for the movie, directed by Marleen Gorris, is set to start next year in South Africa and England.

McElhone has starred in TV series Californication and films Solaris and Ronin.

She is currently pregnant with the couple's third child. "

See my post on Doctor "James Barry"

Neanderthal Woman

Neanderthal woman has a name - Wilma. Yes, after that other famous "cave-woman".

From The Mail Online:
"The model has been nicknamed Wilma after she was found to have red-hair like the Flintstones character.

The findings had suggested that at least some Neanderthals would have had red hair, pale skin, and possibly freckles.

Created for an October 2008 National Geographic magazine article, Wilma has a skeleton made from replicas of pelvis and skull bones from Neanderthal females."

Read more at the National Geographic

Monday, September 22, 2008

Child Marriages - Part III

From Dawn:

Jirga orders minor girl’s marriage to old man
"SUKKUR, Sept 19: A jirga held in Khanpur Mahar on Friday came up with the verdict that a seven-year-old girl be married to a 50-year old man to resolve a dispute related to karo-kari allegations.

However, the family of the girl has refused to accept the verdict on the ground that she is too young to be married at this age.

According to sources, the jirga was held in Khanpur Mahar to resolve a one-year old karo-kari dispute between Chakar Shar of Khanpur Mahar and Yasin Shar of Khuharo Village near Ghotki. The jirga, after hearing both the parties, came to the conclusion that Chakar Shar had illicit affair with Subhan Khatoon wife of Yasin Shar. It slapped a fine of Rs 40,000 on Chakar and ordered him to marry his cousin Birbul Shar’s seven-year-old daughter Guddi to Nadoo Shar, 50, who is father of Yasin Shar. Chakar does not have a girl child.

Chakar Shar refused to accept the verdict, saying that, Guddi Shar was only 7 years old and they would not giver her in marriage to Nado Shar who is 50 year old.

Later, talking to the local journalists, Yar Mohammad Shar, brother of Guddi Shar, termed the decision of jirga as atrocious and said that the elder, who presided over the jirga, was pressuring them to accept the verdict, but they would never accept it.

One year ago, Yasin Shar declared his wife Subhan Khatoon kari with Chakar Shar and sent her to her parents and since then both the groups were daggers drawn over the issue and on Friday a jirga was held to resolve the issue.

CLASH: Two people were killed and two others injured in an armed clash between Chachar and Ghoto communities, following kidnapping of a young girl by the armed persons from Ghotki on Thursday.

Zarina, daughter of Ghulam Rasool Chachar, was kidnapped by the armed persons and the Chachar community men blamed Subhan Ghoto, resident of village Panjoo Bagh, of kidnapping the girl and attacked their houses. In the meantime, the DPO of Ghotki along with a police party reached on the spot and recovered the girl and shifted her to a safer place."

"Honour" Killing: Buried Alive - Part VI

From Dawn:

Women rights groups seek independent probe: Burying alive of women in Balochistan
By Sher Baz Khan

"ISLAMABAD, Sept 18: Women rights groups from across the country here on Thursday demanded the government to launch an independent probe into the alleged burying alive of five women in Balochistan and asked for the resignation of a senator and some public servants who had tried to justify the act by terming it part of local culture and tradition.

Speaking at a press conference, which was preceded by day-long consultations and followed by a protest demonstration here in front of the camp office of Rawalpindi-Islamabad Press Club, activists of a number of women rights organisations held the state responsible for the reoccurrence of crimes against women in the name of honour and tradition in various parts of the country.

Representatives of civil society organisations and activists from all over Pakistan including Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar, Jacobabad, Khairpur, Sukkur, Naseerabad, Mardan, Swabi and Islamabad held a day-long consultation and expressed their lack of satisfaction over the investigation held to the burying alive of five women by the inspector general of Balochistan.

Speaking at a press conference later, Anees Haroon of Aurat Foundation termed the crime heinous, barbaric, unspeakable and part of the local power politics in Balochistan, which, she said, needed to be condemned in strongest possible words and countered by punishing those responsible.

She said the Senate had already expressed its dissatisfaction over the investigation report prepared by the police under the IG Balochistan as it suffered from various procedural lacunas. She said the civil society commission should prepare an independent fact-finding report, while a senior and renowned lawyer should oversee the investigations being conducted by the police.

Ms Haroon was announcing a joint statement prepared during consultations called together by the Joint Action Committee (JAC), Women Action Forum (WAF), Insani Haqooq Ittehad (IHI) and Violence Against Women Watch Group. A large number of women participants unanimously termed the women killed in the name of honour as ‘Shaheed Auratain’ (Martyred Women), and said 16 days of activism this year would be dedicated to such women killed in honour-related crimes.

The joint statement also called for disqualification of Senator Israrullah Zehri and all those public representatives who had allegedly “defended” honour killings. It demanded legislations against the informal judicial structures like Jirga and Panchayat.

Ms Haroon said the Pakistan Penal Code needed to be further amended so that murder was brought back as a crime against state and should under no circumstances be compounded. Murder of members of vulnerable groups should be taken as an aggravated rather than mitigated circumstance. She said women and human rights groups would also hold four seminars at provincial levels in order to build vocal support against honour killing.

The participants of the consultation later gathered in front of the camp office of the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Press Club and staged a demonstration demanding the government to take practical measures to curb violence against women.

The participants were holding banners and placards inscribed with slogans against male chauvinism and the animal-like treatment of women at the hands of men in many parts of the country."

Women In Government

From the spate of recent articles in the various newspapers worldwide, both Israel and Japan look set to have a female in the top job.

Times of India:
"Israel’s foreign minister declared victory on Thursday in a tight race to replace Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as the head of the governing party, getting a chance to be the country’s first female leader in 34 years.

Tzipi Livni, 50, said she would immediately turn to the task of trying to cobble together a new government.

“The national responsibility (bestowed) by the public brings me to approach this job with great awe,” Livni said.

Official results showed Livni winning by a 1.1 percentage point margin in the Kadima Party primary elections — a far narrower victory than the double-digit romp polls had predicted.

Livni, a political moderate, barely edged out hawkish rival Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister, in a contest that could have far-reaching implications for peacemaking with the Palestinians and Syria.

If she succeeds, she will become Israel’s first female prime minister since Golda Meir stepped down in 1974. If she fails, the country will hold elections in early 2009, a year and a half ahead of schedule. "

From The Star Tribune and WTOP.news:
"Even as a long-shot candidate for prime minister, Yuriko Koike is making waves in Japan, where women in high places remain rare.

The 56-year-old former defense minister is the first female candidate to run for the head of Japan's ruling party — a post that brings with it the prime ministership.

The favorite in Monday's party vote is former Foreign Minister Taro Aso, one of four men in the running, but Koike's candidacy has symbolic importance.

Koike is the candidate most feared by the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, said Soichiro Tahara, host of a TV news show.

"She is the first woman candidate. Being the first — that has tremendous impact," he said recently at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.

Koike herself is a former TV anchorwoman, a smooth talker who is fluent in Arabic and familiar with international affairs."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Women In Authority

Here's an amusing little blurb from "The Boy's Own Paper" entitled:

"As a creature of God, a woman is to be looked upon with reverence. For she was created to be around the man, to care for children and to bring them up in an honest and godly way, and to be subject to the man. Men, on the other hand, are commanded to govern and have the rule over women and the rest of the household. But if a woman forsakes her office and assumes authority over her husband, she is no longer doing her own work, for which she was created, but a work that comes from her own fault and from evil. For God did not create this sex for ruling, and therefore they never rule successfully."

Thoughts .....

Best Blogs

Without seeking to do so, I found my blog listed on two "top 100" listings.

101 Women Bloggers to Watch - Fall 2008 - WE Magazine for Women

100 Awesome Blogs for History Junkies - Best Colleges

I thank whoever added this blog - to both lists. There are some amazing blogs listed, so I hope that you have enough hours in the day to explore them all - I know I don't!

Women's Groups Vote No To Palin

It appears that whilst supporting the call for a female president, American women are voting in the thousands against Sarah Palin - because of her choices. I may not agree with Palin's personal choices - but they are hers.

Am I so naive in assuming that it is my right as a woman to choose - what I think, what I do, etc. I don't recall being told by my local chapter of Feminists Are Us that I had to toe the party line. Isn't this what we fought for so long ago - the right to choose. And now, those self-same women are telling us - no, you do what we tell you. Frankly, I don't always agree with their politics!

From The Independent:
"The National Organisation for Women (NOW) is 500,000 strong and hugely influential. The feminist organisation almost never supports a presidential candidate, but the Alaska governor's Christian fundamentalist faith and her opposition to abortion rights has forced its hand.

Other women's rights organisations are also campaigning against Governor Palin, pushed along by a spontaneous anti-Palin movement among women.

NOW's decision to back Senator Obama when a woman is within striking distance of becoming elected is a bold step for the group and a setback for John McCain's hopes of luring the millions of women who supported Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries."

From Boston.com:
"Women's rights groups endorsed Barack Obama for president Tuesday, asserting the historic selection of a female Republican vice presidential candidate does not make up for John McCain's lack of support on issues important to women.

"We don't think it's much to break a glass ceiling for one woman and leave millions of women behind," said Eleanor Smeal, chairman of the Feminist Majority Political Action Committee.

Smeal was among leaders from six organizations that announced their endorsement of the Democratic presidential nominee at a news conference.

Obama also won the support of the National Organization for Women, which said it has not endorsed a candidate for president since Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro shared the Democratic ticket in 1984. Ferraro was the first female major-party vice presidential candidate.

NOW backed New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the primaries. "We join with her in saying 'no,'" said NOW President Kim Gandy, referring to a line Clinton used at the Democratic convention last month. "No way, no how, no McCain."

The McCain campaign said it was unhappy with NOW's decision to endorse Obama.

"It's extremely disappointing that an organization that purports to be an advocate for all women not only opposes but feels compelled to go out of its way to criticize and make negative comments about the only ticket in the presidential race with a woman on the ticket," Palin's spokeswoman Maria Comella said in an e-mail.

Smeal said the organizations have and will continue to protest any sexism in the presidential campaign, but she added, "We think it's time to get off issues such as lipstick and on to the issues, really, that are challenging this nation."

Gandy criticized Republicans for changing their tone on sexism.

Obama was also endorsed by leaders from Business and Professional Women/USA, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Congress of Black Women and the Women's Information Network."

I think its about time women starting making up their own minds - and stop being told how to think but "organisations" and other such political groups. Assess the worthiness of the candidates for yourselves - make sure that your choice is your choice.

Support for Japanese Female MP

From the Sydney Morning Herald:
"Japan's popular former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi has thrown his weight behind Yuriko Koike, who is trailing in polls in her bid to become the nation's first female leader.

But Mr Koizumi, Japan's longest-serving prime minister in recent times, was quoted yesterday as coming out on behalf of Ms Koike, a former defence minister who has pledged to carry out free-market reforms from Mr Koizumi's 2001 to 2006 tenure.

The intervention was unusual for Mr Koizumi, who has mostly kept a low profile since stepping down, focusing on his hobbies.

Mr Koizumi was a rare modern Japanese prime minister, enjoying popularity throughout his tenure. Voters were drawn to his charismatic campaign style, which included picking fights against the old guard of the Liberal Democratic Party."

Rwandan Women

From Yahoo News:
"Women are playing a crucial role in post-genocide Rwandan politics with the help of a seat reservation system that has made the country one of the few with equal representation of the sexes.

On Tuesday morning, over a hundred women from the Nyarugenge district in the heart of Kigali gathered to elect their women representatives.

The process, along with the selection of three other special interest representatives, continues until Thursday, and follows the voting on Monday in which President Paul Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front won 42 of the 53 seats contested in direct voting.

But despite the strength of women's representation in parliament, the struggle for equality is still not over, particularly in rural areas."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Iraq's Female Police Officers

The female members of Iraq's police force are continuing their training in the role to assist in the enforcement of the law within Iraq.

From the Star Tribune:
"The 30-year-old recruit and the 20 other women training at the academy are a critical part of the U.S. and Iraqi response to the latest deadly tactic of al-Qaida in Iraq: female suicide bombers.

But the academy — the only one of its kind in Iraq — is taking that response one step further. For one month, the women stay and train at the academy in the volatile Diyala province with 680 male colleagues.

Unlike many other security programs for women, where they come only during the day and where classes are confined mostly to search methods, this academy offers women the same lessons as men — including weapons training.

Women have been serving as auxiliary members of Iraqi security forces in markets and during pilgrimages, but these recruits will be full-time policewomen once they graduate next week. They also will receive an official police certification from the Ministry of Interior."

And from Yahoo News:
"She was wearing something rarely seen on an Iraqi woman — a police uniform of blue shirts and black pants.

There is still some resistance to women police officers in Diyala, one of the most violent pockets in Iraq. Some men believe the job is too dangerous. Others object to women leaving their families for a month to live at the academy.

Diyala police Maj. Raied Khalaf dismissed the idea of women officers: a "nightingale" who will be "a soft and easy target for abduction and murder."

But as the frequency of female suicide bombers increases, the need to include women in the police forces is overruling the opposition. Iraqi men are reluctant to search women and risk breaking social taboos, and al-Qaida exploits this by having them conceal explosives in long, flowing robes.

The number of attacks by female bombers in Iraq has tripled from eight in 2007 to more than two dozen so far this year, according to U.S. military officials.

Diyala has been particularly vulnerable. Women have carried out 12 suicide attacks this year in the strategic and ethnically diverse province northeast of Baghdad that was a former al-Qaida in Iraq stronghold.

Iraqi and American officials hope the women training at the academy can start closing that gap.

During their month at the academy, the women learn how to tame riots, take apart guns, set up checkpoints and search for weapons. When not in the field, they get courses in first aid and policing ethics.

The recruits — a mix of Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds — are told to place sectarian perspectives and politics aside and put their country first. The women recruits say it will be up to their individual stations on whether they can carry weapons, but many hope they can.

Some are widows whose husbands were killed by militants. Others have disabled husbands and relatives who can't work after being wounded in violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. All need steady paychecks to support their children.

About 25 more women are set to attend the academy's next session before the U.S. military turns the center over to Iraqi control in November."

It is encouraging to see women taking a more active role in their nation's future.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Equality.... is a dirty word in politics

More on the discrimination of women who, with families, decide to embark upon or extend their careers in the political arena.
Editorial from The State:
Equality is reserved for the ‘right’ (left) women
By BOB MCALISTER - Guest Columnist

"Nikki Haley was shocked. A Democratic official known throughout South Carolina as an enlightened feminist counseled that she should not run for public office because she had two young children. But later on the same day in 2003, Mrs. Haley was in the audience when another prominent Democrat, Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, challenged women to seek office.

Spurred by both encounters, the Lexington resident ran the following year and was elected as a Republican to the S.C. House of Representatives. Some insiders say she has statewide potential.

As we discussed the shameful media reaction to John McCain’s pick of Gov. Sarah Palin on the GOP ticket, Mrs. Haley said she has never publicly told the story of the feminist who tried to keep her out of politics. “That just made me more determined,” she said.

Mrs. Haley is reluctant to discuss the double standard for female officeholders (“I am not a victim and don’t want to sound like one”), but she can relate to the pounding Gov. Palin is taking over whether a mother of five should be vice president.

“Every week I’m asked how I handle my little ones and serve my constituents,” she said. “It’s no different from anybody else’s life. I prioritize with my children and husband and do the best I can and refuse to feel guilty.”
So Gov. Palin is not the first political woman to experience the old double standard. But the brutal and loathsome treatment she’s getting from the national media is unique in American history.

Leaders of the intelligentsia, so progressive and tolerant of liberal women, express faux concern over whether her Down syndrome baby will get enough motherly love. They breathlessly conclude a mom of five just can’t hack it, especially when her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant.

As Helen Reddy sang, “That ain’t no way to treat a lady.”

“It’s unfortunate they are focusing on one aspect of a lifetime full of courage and talent,” Mrs. Haley said. “This is a story we should all feel good about.”

The mainstream media and Democratic liberals — excuse the redundancy — are not feeling too good nowadays.

John McCain found a woman for the ticket who has done everything that political feminists spent the last 30 years saying a modern woman should do, except abort her children, and she has done it brilliantly.

This gun-totin’, fish-catchin’ machine steamrolled her way through the corrupt good old boys in Juno and landed in the governor’s office with an 80 percent approval rating. She charmed the big-oil lobbyists, picked their pockets and sent the proceeds back to the taxpayers.

She has managed a balanced budget while balancing the needs of her family with her official responsibilities.
So why do the libs feel so bad?

They were the ones supposed to break the glass ceiling, because they owned the women’s movement. Then The One arose to lead His children to the Promised Land, along the way charging over and through the would-be ceiling breaker, who wasn’t even considered worthy of being The One’s No. 2. An old bald guy took her place.

And they don’t feel too good about what came out of St. Paul this week. The day after Gov. Palin took the GOP convention by storm, polls showed more than half the American people thought reporters were trying to destroy Mrs. Palin, and 24 percent said that makes them more likely to vote for the McCain/Palin ticket.
Score one for the people, who know a media scam when they see it.

I’m guessing the American people have made three discoveries during the Palin rollout:
1. If a woman is pro-life and doesn’t hate men, the chattering class won’t give her an equal playing field.
2. Her daughter’s pregnancy is nobody’s business.
3. A woman who blew up Alaska’s good-old-boy network and shoots bull moose at point blank range is not intimidated by a bunch of sissy reporters who think moose is a dessert.

Mr. McAlister is a public relations consultant and was an adviser to Sen. John McCain in the S.C. presidential primary."

No escape from abuse

Here is a tragic story of three sisters unable to escape the vicious cycle of abuse.
From Arab News:
"JEDDAH: Three sisters who have repeatedly fled their father’s home after 10 years of physical and psychological abuse and sexual molestation reached a dead end.

The girls’ last escape was five months ago. Mona, Nadin and Lina took refuge in the home of their mother, who had been divorced from their father nine years ago. According to a court verdict issued in 1999, the mother can only see the girls on Fridays from the afternoon until early evening. She tried to get custody of her daughters, but all her attempts were unsuccessful. She was hesitant to speak to the press until she realized it was her final recourse.

“Five years and I’ve been trying to have my daughters live with me. My ex-husband is an imam and member of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. He uses his religious appearance as a green light to get under people’s skin and get what he wants,” said the mother in anguish.

The girls, whose ages are 21, 16 and 15, said that after the divorce their father told them their mother abandoned them so she could pursue her career and that she did not want anything to do with them. But only after they grew up, the girls saw their father and stepmother for who they were.

“My stepmother touches my breasts and my sensitive areas. Her words are obscene. I got my menstruation for the first time in the midst of a battering session by my father,” said the oldest sister Mona.

In August 2007, Lina, the youngest daughter, ran away from her father’s home heading to her mother. Arab News has a copy of a medical report that diagnosed the state she was in as an acute stress reaction.

Lina sat absorbed in her thoughts while her mother and Mona described the incident.

“She was suicidal and in a horrific psychological state,” said the mother. “When I first opened the door and saw her standing there, I thought their house had burned down and she was the only survivor.”

Mona and Nadin were still at their father’s home after the youngest ran away.

“My dad threatened us. He told us that if he killed us, no one could take legal action against him because he is our father,” said Mona.

He then went to the Civil Rights Department and filed a complaint against the mother and her husband that they kidnapped his daughter. When the mother received the summons, they wanted her to give back the daughter to her father.

“But she wasn’t in a stable psychological state. I asked them to wait until she recovered and then I would take her back to her father,” the mother said.

Instead, they took the mother — who was nine months pregnant at that time — and put her in jail. She was bleeding while pleading with the prison officer to get her out. They were completing procedures to transfer her to the General Population Prison.

“My ex-husband took the girl from my house and put her in the shelter home. It was only when he submitted a letter stating that fact to Civil Rights that they released me,” she added.

After the girls’ final escape to their mother’s house, they filed a complaint to the Ministry of Social Affairs. After investigating their case, they set up a date where the girls met face to face with their father.

“I was so terrified to meet him. Of course, he denied everything. He claimed that he and our stepmother treated us nicely,” said Mona.

After the meeting, the girls agreed to go back with their father but only if he agreed to their conditions. They wrote a letter with the conditions that included: Continuous follow-up from Social Affairs to their case; no physical or mental abuse; no interference by the stepmother; that they receive the allowance their Qu’ran memorization school grants them monthly (SR250); that they continue their college education; and that the 1999 court verdict granting the mother limited visitation be annulled so that she gets considerably more time with her children.

The father did not agree to their conditions. Two months ago, the mother filed another complaint wanting to take custody of her daughters or regularize their visits. They met with Judge Abdul Rahman Al-Hujailan who didn’t want to listen to what they had to say.

“He said to me that a woman is incapable of preserving herself, therefore, she’s incapable of preserving her daughters. He also said that according to the Hanbali School, I’m not allowed to see my daughters since I’m divorced. I should secretly go to visit them at their father’s home when he’s not around,” said the mother. Everyone turned a deaf ear to the girls’ case. Only Ali Al-Hinaki, general director at the Ministry of Social Affairs’ district office for Makkah province, was cooperative and responsive, said the mother. He told Arab News that girls escaping their fathers’ or mothers’ home is a recurrent social problem.

“Children are always the victims of divorce. In this case, the father believes he and his wife are offering the best to the daughters. The girls are saying the opposite and they insist they don’t want to go back home with their father,” he said.

He said that through studying the case he concluded that the father lacks the proper methods of dealing with the girls. He also said that during reconciliation sessions the father appeared to be rigid.

“Things have escalated now and there is nothing Social Affairs can do. We mainly look after physical abuse cases and sexual harassment. This case be referred to the justice system,” added Al-Hinaki.

He emphasized the fact that young girls and teens need their parents’ love, caring and understanding. If young girls were faced with scolding, unfairness or blame, they end up suppressing their feelings.

“And if they get the chance to escape, they will. That’s why girls run away from their homes. Fathers, mothers and siblings must provide love and care to their young daughters or sisters and listen to what they have to say,” Al-Hinaki said.

Arab News attempted a number of times to contact Mona, Nadin and Lina’s father, but he did not respond. The girls are still with their mother, frightened that he might show up to take them back with him. Nothing much was done to annul the verdict or to help the girls. The mother went to the National Society for Human Rights office in Jeddah.

They issued a letter asking the Jeddah Governorate to annul the verdict. Yet again nothing has happened so far.

“Things are uncertain,” said the mother in tears. “We’re scared to even answer the phone at home. Isn’t there anyone to help us?”

— The names of family members have been changed to protect identities."

Politics is a dirty game

The race for the US presidency has just gotten dirtier, with supporters of Obama launching into the dergatory name-calling phase of their campaign.

"Democrat Barack Obama was forced to defend himself against charges of sexism after likening his Republican White House rivals' promise of change to putting "lipstick on a pig".

On Tuesday, the McCain campaign decried Obama's choice of words as the latest example of sexism thrown at Republican vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin as she vies to become America's first female vice president.

Former Republican Massachusetts governor Jane Swift said Obama was guilty of "disgraceful comments, comparing our vice presidential nominee, Governor Palin, to a pig"."

Then there is this report by Michelle Malkin, arguing where is the support for Palin from those women in similar positions. Palin has been denegrated for daring to campaign whilst at home she has a child with special needs and a pregnant daughter.

Michelle's article: "
Sisterhood of the Protected Female Liberal Journalists" is a must read - here are some selected excerpts:
"Let's talk Mommy Wars, double standards and the media elite. Last Friday, Howard Gutman, a member of the Obama campaign's National Finance Committee, attacked Sarah Palin's ability to be a good parent and have a high-powered public life at the same time. In a finger-wagging appearance on the Laura Ingraham radio show, Obama's operative scolded the Republican mother of five children for not putting her professional career on hold.

Damningly, it's high-powered working mothers in the journalism business who are helping to broadcast the anti-Palin slams or doing nothing to defend her.

How would Katie Couric like the Gutman standard applied to her? Her husband died at 42 when her daughters were 6 and 2 years old. With two young children devastated by the loss of a father, she opted not to quit journalism. She anchored NBC's "Today Show" through his illness and death, continued working an intensive, time-consuming schedule as one of America's most visible broadcast journalists while a single mother with two fatherless children at home, and then jumped to CBS News .......

How about CNN's Soldedad O'Brien? She's been working overtime covering the presidential campaign season, anchoring daily coverage and nighttime conventions, and producing documentaries that require large chunks of time away from home.

Also at CNN, Campbell Brown flew to Las Vegas last year to moderate a political debate while 8 and a half months pregnant. Fox News host and left-wing blogger Alan Colmes, last seen questioning Palin's commitment to prenatal care because she worked and traveled late in her pregnancy, had no comment.

At NBC, famous balancer of work and motherhood Meredith Viera replaced Couric on the "Today Show." She has three children at home and a husband who has battled multiple sclerosis and two bouts of colon cancer. By the Gutman standard, Viera should have left the business years ago to tend to her family in need.

I don't challenge the commitment these fellow working mothers in the media have to their home lives. What I challenge is their silence and complicity as the Palin-bashers impose a "Family First" double standard on conservatives. The sorority is closed to the Right."

And, you know what - i am beginning to agree with Michelle's comments - double standard indeed!

What's that old saying about casting stones .......

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ban on Jirga System

Further to my June 30th post "Ban on Jirga" comes this article from Dawn:

Signature campaign against jirga system
"HYDERABAD, Sept 9: The Hyderabad chapter of the Women Action Forum launched a signature campaign against jirga system at Allama I.I. Kazi campus of the University of Sindh on Tuesday.

More than 4,000 students, teachers, research scholars, writers, deans of the faculties, directors and chairpersons of teaching centres, institutes and departments and a majority of faculty members participated in the campaign, which was inaugurated by Sindh University Vice-Chancellor Mazharul Haq Siddiqui.

Mr. Siddiqui said it was a tragedy that an ancient custom that encouraged treating women like chattel had been continuing through jirga system. The barbarity must come to an end now and the society should work against it in a collective manner to eradicate it.

He said that the university students should work as ambassadors and play their role against barbaric traditions and customs. He appreciated the forum’s struggle against different evils of society and called for collective efforts for the development of the society.

Akhtar Jabeen Siddiqui said that the jirga system was a challenge not only for the poor of backward areas but also for the educated people and the society as a whole.

Women Action Forum activists Professor Amar Sindhu and Professor Irfana Mallah also spoke on the occasion. Professor Sindhu said that the launch of signature campaign at the university was aimed at creating awareness among the youth who represented rural and urban areas.

She said that the list of signatures would be handed to the members of Sindh Assembly to persuade them to make laws against jirga system.

Vice-Chairman of Sindhi Adabi Board Shaikh Aziz, noted sociologist Dr. Tanveer Junejo, Dr. M.Q. Bughio, Registrar Mohammad Saleh Rajar, Dr. G.M. Lakho and Dr. Mehrunnisa Larik visited the campaign camp."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Women in the Philippines

History in the making in the Philippines for women.

From Committee News - House of Representatives (Philippines):
"THE COMMITTEE on Labor and Employment under Representative Magtanggol Gunigundo I (2nd District, Valenzuela City) approved in a recent meeting House Bill 1131 which provides for mandatory women and gender education in the workplace.

Authored by Rep. Liza Largoza-Maza (Party List, Gabriela), the proposal requires employers to provide their workers and employees free annual seminars on women's rights, welfare, development and gender equality in the workplace using participatory and non-formal education modules prescribed by the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW) and women's organizations.

The bill, which amends Title Four of Book Four of the Labor Code, underscores the value of awareness through education to better prevent or fight crimes against women, including sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace

"A citizenry aware and enlightened on women's rights, welfare and development and gender equality is better equipped to promote and protect women, prevent crimes against women of all ages and eliminate gender and sex discrimination and inequality", the author explained.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan (Party List, GABRIELA) during the meeting in behalf of the author.

Meanwhile, the Committee also discussed three measures aimed at further promoting women's rights and welfare in the workplace.

House Bills 445, 197 and 3465 all seek to expand the list of prohibited acts of discrimination against women in the workforce under the Labor Code of the Philippines (Presidential Decree 442).

The bills, respectively authored by Deputy Speaker Raul V. Del Mar (1st District, Cebu City), Rep. Juan Edgardo M. Angara (Lone District, Aurora) and Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro), will be consolidated to come up with a single version.

In filing the bills, the authors cited the Constitutional provisions recognizing the role of women in nation-building and ensuring the fundamental equality of men and women before the law.

All three measures consider the following discriminatory acts punishable under the Labor Code: the act of giving preference to a male applicant over a female applicant in the hiring process, whether through notices, announcement or advertisements for employment or apprenticeship or in the actual recruitment, hiring or employment of workers where the particular job can be equally handled by a woman; and the act of favoring a male employee over a female employee with respect to dismissal of personnel or the application of any retrenchment policy of the employer solely on account of their sexes.

In filing his bill, Deputy Speaker Del Mar explained that women, perceived by many to be the "weaker sex" despite what they have achieved in all major fields of endeavor, struggle for a place in the competitive job market with this handicap.

With the strict statutory prohibition against any form of discrimination in the hiring process, Rep. del Mar said his bill, "will inject some fairness in the playing field and force men and women to compete on an even keel."

Rep. Angara explained that his bill is but "one step towards departing from the prevailing social and economic inequity in the country."

In pushing for his bill, Rep. Rodriguez cited a study conducted by the Bureau of Women and Young Workers and the National Statistics Office (NSO) which states that generally, women employees earn less than their male counterparts, are predominantly in low-skilled jobs, and only a few advance to the top of the organizational hierarchy.

Elizabeth Angsioco of the Democratic Socialist Women's Party (DSWP) lauded the intention of the proposed bills and expressed her group's full support.

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) representative Evelyn Manangan said that the proposed measures will raise heightened awareness of the rights of a woman as a person."

From GMA News:
"A pending bill on women's rights and gender education in the workplace gained ground in the House of Representatives as it passed second reading.

The House of Representatives website said Monday House Bill 4374 underscores the role of employers and trade unions to help educate and inform workers.

Principally authored by Reps. Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan of Gabriela Party-list, the bill aims to amend Article 210 of Presidential Decree 442, the Labor Code of the Philippines.

The bill requires the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Education (DepEd) to jointly prescribe the regulations for such education programs.

Such programs include women's rights and gender equality; and the rights, benefits, duties and responsibilities of workers.

Employers and trade unions may seek the assistance of government instrumentalities, non-government organizations, labor groups, industry chambers, and other entities concerned with such activities.

"This bill addresses the need for government to enforce the promotion and protection of women workers' rights, welfare and development and gender equality through education seminars in the workplace," Maza said.

Maza lauded women's groups and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that tried to raise awareness about women's rights and gender equality to fight sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

But she said it is still the government that should be primarily responsible for women and gender equality education in conformity with the Constitution's mandate.

"A country aware and enlightened on women's rights, welfare and development and gender equality is better equipped to promote and protect women, prevent crimes against women of all ages and eliminate gender and sex discrimination and inequality," Maza said. - GMANews.TV"

Thai Princess UN Ambassador

From UN News Centre:
"Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol of Thailand has joined the United Nations “Say No to Violence against Women” at a ceremony to mark her designation as a Goodwill Ambassador in Thailand for the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

Princess Bajrakitiyabha – a doctoral graduate in law from Cornell University and an Assistant Public Prosecutor in Thailand – handed out “Say No” cards at the ceremony in Bangkok on Friday, attended by ministers, senior Government officials, dignitaries and representatives from civil society.

“I am confident that, with our concerted efforts, the UNIFEM campaign… will certainly draw a huge number of signatures from the public showing the strength of Thailand’s one clear voice towards ending the violence against women,” Princess Bajrakitiyabha said.

UNIFEM invited Princess Bajrakitiyabha to be a Goodwill Ambassador in recognition of her initiative known as Kamlangjai (Inspire), which aims to empower women inmates, including pregnant inmates and their babies in correctional facilities.

The Thai Constitution has provisions to address violence against women, including domestic violence.

According to UNIFEM, at least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, with the abuser usually someone known to her."

Yuriko Koike

Further to my post "Japan's First Female PM"

From Canadian Press:
"A former Japanese anchorwoman-cum-cabinet minister has thrown her hat into the ring in an attempt to become that country's first female prime minister.

Yuriko Koike announced Monday that she will challenge six other hopefuls seeking to become president of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic party in a Sept. 22 election.

Whoever wins that post is virtually certain to be chosen by parliament to succeed Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who announced his resignation last week."

From the Telegraph:
"Yuriko Koike, a former television news presenter, launched her campaign with a promise to rejuvenate the world's second-largest economy if she is selected to replace Yasuo Fukuda, who resigned last week after just a year in office.

She is the first woman to seek the leadership of the LDP, which has seen its popularity eroded after five decades of near continuous rule.

She faces stiff competition from three other candidates, including front-runner and flamboyant party secretary General Taro Aso, for the party vote on September 22.

A general election will be held by September next year, although the opposition has called for a snap election as soon as possible.

Koike said that the keyword of her campaign would be "reform" and said she intends to introduce an environmental tax to fight global warming.

"Change is not happening fast enough for women, either in Japanese society or our political world," she said."

From the International Herald Tribune:
"She's less likely to hog the headlines than Sarah Palin, but former defence minister Yuriko Koike made an equally bold bid for power on Monday, as she launched an attempt to become Japan's first woman prime minister.

A telegenic former newscaster fluent in English and Arabic, Koike, 56, emphasised her plans to tackle women's issues and the environment as well as administrative reform at a news conference in Tokyo.

Japan ranked 54th out of 177 countries in terms of women's economic and political power in a United Nations survey for 2007-2008 -- way behind most major industrialised countries.

Japanese women were granted the right to vote only after Japan's World War Two defeat and only one woman has ever led a major Japanese political party, the Socialists. A woman currently heads the tiny Social Democratic Party.

One other major party has turned to a woman to try to restore its fortunes in Japanese political history.

Takako Doi led the Socialist Party from 1986, and helped the opposition win a historic upper house election victory in 1989, but she stepped down in 1991. In 1993, she was appointed the first female speaker of the lower house.

A second stint as party leader was less successful, and the remnant of her party is now only a minor player.

But even feminists who welcome the advent of a woman candidate for prime minister express doubt about whether Koike, a former environment minister who has served as a national security adviser and briefly as defence minister, is the right choice."

Official website of Yuriko Koike