Women's News from the Web

Anupam Singh: Saving Lives After Her Own Dream Dies

Women's eNews - Wed, 12/26/2018 - 04:10

Married at 14 years of age to a man 12 years older than she, Anupam Singh saw her dream of becoming a teacher die when her father-in law refused to let her continue studying. Ironically, he sent his daughters, including the elder one who was Singh’s classmate, to school.  When her father-in-law died four years later, the responsibility of looking after the family fell on Singh’s shoulders. Then already a mother of two children, the 18-year-old began sewing to keep the family fires burning. She also took a loan to fund the education of her two sisters-in-law. When she became an accredited social health activist (ASHA or a government frontline health worker) some years later, she faced social stigma for traveling without her husband to meet communities. “They thought I was a loose woman and wanted to prevent me from doing my work. They knew that if I didn’t work, I would have had to sell my small piece of land to make two ends and that is what they wanted,” Singh recalls.

Remaining defiant, Singh continued to work, and as her salary and success increased, the same people who originally criticized her sought her advice about their daughters also becoming an ASHAs. “This was a big victory,” Singh. contended.

Yet a bigger victory came when she was able to reduce the number of maternal deaths in her Sehra Jalalpur village in the Ambedkar Nagar district, Uttar Pradesh, by convincing pregnant mothers to register for antenatal care and opt for institutional deliveries. Considering the maternal mortality ratio in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, is the second highest in the country, this is a major achievement. The state maternal mortality ratio dropped from 285 per 100,000 live births in 2012-13, to 201 deaths in 2014-16.

“I tell parents not to marry their daughters young. They must be educated so that they can follow their dreams and not die while giving birth,” said the 36-year old Singh.

The journey, however, hasn’t been an easy one. Not only did she have to leave her children behind, but she also had to counter verbal abuse and taunts about her character. Determined to continue her work, Singh dug in her heels even deeper. When she took a mother and her ill newborn child to the district government hospital at 2:00 am in a private taxi after the ambulance didn’t arrive, word got around the village that Singh was a life saver.

Slowly, an increasing number of pregnant women arrived to register their names and seek her help. Last year, Singh reached out to over 300 women and helped 36 women give birth safely in hospitals. In fact, had it not been for Singh’s intervention, a pregnant woman with twins would not have been able to give birth safely, since she was originally turned away by the government hospital for arriving too late at night. “When the nurse asked them to make their own arrangements since a caesarean operation could not take place without a doctor at the hospital, I stepped in. I told her that I would be the doctor on emergency duty who would be responsible if the woman died as a consequence of their inaction,” Singh said.  Singh remained with the mother and twins throughout the night to ensure there were no more complications.

“I have been working for 13 years now. Yes, everyone in the community health centre knows me now and they also know that I am aware of all government schemes, so no one can deprive any women of their right to healthcare,” Singh continues. “I am known as Rani Laxmibai because I am just as strong-willed and fiery as the famous Indian queen who died fighting for the country’s independence against the British.”

Her willingness to go beyond the call of duty has won Singh love, respect and many awards. She has been honored twice for being one of the best ASHAs in the district by the state government. In July this year, Singh was also chosen to receive the annual Plan India Impact award for her exceptional commitment and dedication to bring down maternal and infant mortality. “The Award recognizes and awards exemplary work of grassroots champions who have battled numerous challenges in their lives to bring about change. We received 289 nominations from 22 states. Singh has been honored for her tireless efforts as a frontline healthworker to transform lives in her community,” said Bhagyashri Dengle, Executive Director, Plan India.

Singh has also ensured that her three children, a son and two daughters, study. “I walk 7-8 kms for my work every day so that I can give them a better life,” she continues, with a smile. “I gave my cycle to my daughter five years ago when she started middle school. I hope that by passing Class 11 through open school a few years ago, I have been able to teach them the importance of education and inspired them to fulfill their dreams.”


Plan for Gertrude Bell blue plaque in London sparks controversy

Women's News from the Web - Tue, 12/25/2018 - 23:00

Explorer, diplomat and writer born in north-east England ‘did not have anything to do with London’, says biographer

English Heritage has been accused of trying to claim for London the remarkable north-east England-born explorer, diplomat, archaeologist and writer Gertrude Bell.

The charity has said it is planning a blue plaque in the capital for Bell as part of its push to get more women from history recognised. Only 14% of the more than 900 blue plaques in London are dedicated to women.

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From vaginal eggs to sexy handmaids: Jo Brand’s feminist quiz of the year

Women's News from the Web - Sun, 12/23/2018 - 20:00

How did McDonald’s honour International Women’s Day? Why did Serena Williams outrage tennis officials? And why aren’t Doritos appropriate for women?

Hello, I’m Jo Brand and I have been a feminist since 1847, when we were the property of men. Now, hopefully, we are marching towards a world in which we are not unequal in any sphere and can do exactly what we want without someone commenting that it is unladylike. The future is bright, not pink. Use this quiz to while away a few idle moments as a man in your family drones on about Brexit.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle website, Goop, which I have never visited as I fear it might make my head explode, agreed to a $145,000 settlement after it was accused of making unfounded claims about which product?

Vaginal eggs

Psychic vampire repellant

Raw camel milk

Fur oil for pubic hair

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, made history when she became the first female world leader at the United Nations general assembly meeting to do what?

Give birth

Bring a baby

Smile while being patronised by a male politician

Persuade the US to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

What did McDonald’s do in honour of International Women’s Day?

Implement a living wage and maternity leave

Flip its arches to a W

Rename itself McDonna’s

Make french fries a feminist issue

Serena Williams’ outfit at the French Open caused outrage among French Tennis Federation officials, who announced: “You have to respect the game and the place.” What was she wearing?

Donald Trump fancy dress

A burkini

A black bodysuit

Leather chaps

Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, said the company was considering launching a female-friendly brand of Doritos. Which of the following is NOT a rationale she gave for why regular Doritos aren’t appropriate for women?

Women don’t like to crunch too loudly in public

Women don’t lick their fingers generously

Women don’t like to pour the little broken pieces into their mouths

Women don’t like the colour orange

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, flexing her feminist credentials nearly broke the internet when she did what?

Closed her car door all by herself

Fixed a flat tyre

Flashed her pants while attempting an elegant exit

Got cheaper car insurance

Prada’s 2018 spring collection featured a cotton T-shirt with Angela Davis’s face on it. What price tag did it slap on this homage to the anti-capitalist feminist?





Which member of the Kardashian-Jenner clan did Forbes estimate was on track to become the world’s youngest “self-made” billionaire?




Khrist’s sake, who cares?

Which of the following women was NOT accused of being a bad feminist this year?

Germaine Greer

Margaret Atwood

Catherine Deneuve

Victoria Beckham

Which of these Halloween costumes was pulled from sale after a public outcry?

Sexy Raccoon

Sexy Theresa May

Sexy Dorito

Sexy Handmaid

Alastair Campbell’s daughter, Grace, called into LBC to grill her dad on feminism this summer. What did she accuse him of calling women?





According to the animal rights organisation Peta, you are not a true feminist if you do which of the following?

Eat eggs

Beat eggs

Lay eggs

Throw eggs

In her tell-all book on Donald Trump, Full Disclosure, how did Stormy Daniels describe the US president’s penis?

Like Blanka in Street Fighter

Like the mushroom character, Toad, in Mario Kart

Like the ghost in Pac-Man

Like Bill Sikes in Oliver Twist

When Jennifer Lawrence posed at a photo-call for the film Red Sparrow, her dress sparked a debate about feminism. Why?

She looked cold

She looked old

She looked sad

She looked bad

14 and above.

A perfect score! Muy bueno. Très bien. Very good. This is what the suffragettes sacrificed themselves for

13 and above.

Nearly a perfect score! Let this near-miss haunt you for ever.

12 and above.

Nearly a perfect score! Let this near-miss haunt you for ever.

11 and above.

Nearly a perfect score! Let this near-miss haunt you for ever.

10 and above.

Nearly a perfect score! Let this near-miss haunt you for ever.

9 and above.

Nearly a perfect score! Let this near-miss haunt you for ever.

8 and above.

You did OK. When it comes to feminist quizzes, it is clear you are not a girl, not yet a woman … you’re a goman!

7 and above.

You did OK. When it comes to feminist quizzes, it is clear you are not a girl, not yet a woman … you’re a goman!

6 and above.

You did OK. When it comes to feminist quizzes, it is clear you are not a girl, not yet a woman … you’re a goman!

5 and above.

You did OK. When it comes to feminist quizzes, it is clear you are not a girl, not yet a woman … you’re a goman!

4 and above.

Well, that’s an F for failure for you.

3 and above.

Well, that’s an F for failure for you.

2 and above.

Well, that’s an F for failure for you.

0 and above.

Well, that’s an F for failure for you.

1 and above.

Well, that’s an F for failure for you.

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Why do so many choirs exclude women? It's time for this outdated practice to change | Ria Andriani

Women's News from the Web - Sun, 12/23/2018 - 14:23

We all love the soaring harmonies of a full chorus at Christmas, but many choral institutions still don’t let women sing

Christmas carols, royal weddings and state occasions: these are the times most people get to hear a choir. They’re a remnant of monastic medieval life that has survived in cathedrals and communities. Singing in a choir is increasingly touted for its health benefits. It relieves stress and is an excellent place to engage socially. Evensong attendance has even increased as it becomes an opportunity for people to pause from their daily lives.

But for the singers who are involved in choirs, there’s a stark difference between having a passion for singing and being able to make it your career, and much of it due to gender.

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Women can reclaim power over our bodies – by talking about them | Mandy Len Catron

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 12/22/2018 - 23:50

Acknowledging the biological reality of a woman’s body is still unladylike. But if we can’t talk about our reproductive lives, we can’t defend them

I must have been four or five the first time I was told to “sit like a lady” – that is, with knees together. After that, no one needed to spell it out for me. A lady, I understood, was in full command of her body at all times.

This body never inconvenienced anyone by drawing attention to itself, or taking up too much space, or, God forbid, having any discernible odor. Like a dress worn for two hours on Easter Sunday, a lady’s body was to be admired, not lived in.

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If we African women want hairstyle advice, we won’t ask you, Mr Museveni … | Patience Akumu

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 12/22/2018 - 22:59

President’s comments about the Miss World Africa winner expose double standards

Last week, Quiin Abenakyo from Uganda was crowned Miss World Africa. A dinner invitation from Uganda’s leader of 32 years, Yoweri Museveni, duly followed.

Dining with popular people is his way of winning the support of Ugandans who, in the run-up to the next election, in 2021, are asking difficult questions about the country’s political future and are weary of a government that invests everything in cracking down on the opposition.

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Prosecutors thought no jury would accept Natalie Connolly was murdered. What does that say? | Barbara Ellen

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 12/22/2018 - 20:00

Both in life and death, society continues to dehumanise women

Natalie Connolly, mother of one, would have been 28 this year. There you go – some overdue humanisation for Connolly, whose brutal death in 2016 has been in the news.

Elsewhere, Connolly has been portrayed as a woman who liked “rough sex”, so much so that she died for it, at the hands of her partner, John Broadhurst, a millionaire property developer.

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I think my dad’s girlfriend takes advantage of him. How can I get over my anger? | Dear Mariella

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 12/22/2018 - 19:59

Your father has an issue with boundaries, says Mariella Frostrup. Try to mend your relationship with him first

The dilemma I’ve always had a close relationship with my dad despite not living with him since my parents’ divorce when I was a baby. He’s been through some difficult times over the past decade, coping with bereavement, financial troubles and addiction (his own and that of close relatives). He now lives with his own father to help care for him. For five years, he’s had an on-off relationship with a woman who I now can’t stand. She expects him to pay for her, despite his money worries. When my dad leaves her, she continually messages him or shows up at – or breaks into – the house. He tells me the insane stuff she did during their relationship, then they get back together. Repeatedly he’s promised he won’t go back to her, only to do so. I understand I can’t control who my dad associates with. I know he is to blame as well as her, but I feel if he weren’t so vulnerable he would not have given into her persistence. Could you give me a way to come to terms with this so I can be in the same room as her without my blood boiling?

Mariella replies How about looking at the situation through her lens? I’m not exonerating her of responsibility for her part in your dad’s dysfunctional behaviour, but it’s a common impulse to blame the other party. I once had an almost surreal conversation with a woman whose husband had left her and two young children, unceremoniously, for a more glamorous option – and listened to her fervently blame the other woman. Hooking up with someone else’s husband is not the most sisterly choice, but dumping your wife and children seems to me far more reprehensible. When I tried to reason that this other woman was a stranger with no responsibility to her, while the opposite was true of her ex, she looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. I’m sure there are plenty of other abandoned lovers out there who’ll think me equally misguided, but I’m all for apportioning blame where it should rightfully fall.

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A man lost his job to a rape joke. Are you cheering? | Laura Kipnis

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 12/22/2018 - 01:00

David Edelstein made a misfired ‘joke’ on Facebook that a friend ‘narced to the universe’. But if we’re retaliating against male power, let’s be honest about the enterprise

Hooray for our side: another privileged old white guy chopped down, career in tatters. Hear us roar! Speak truth to power! In this case the malfeasant was film critic David Edelstein, who made a stupid, quickly deleted, misfired “joke” on his private Facebook page, regarding the death of Last Tango in Paris director Bernardo Bertolucci. Posted Edelstein: “Even grief is better with butter,” accompanied by a still of Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando from the film – yes, the infamous and now controversial anal rape scene.

Related: It's the year that celebrities were held to account. But what happens next? | Hadley Freeman

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Theatre in Australia: #MeToo has put power relationships centre stage

Women's News from the Web - Fri, 12/21/2018 - 14:54

Four female theatremakers talk about how power tussles in the industry have played out for them – and what needs to change

Only a handful of #MeToo stories have surfaced in Australia, thanks in large part to the country’s defamation laws – but many of the allegations that have made it to the public originated in the theatre.

Well before the hashtag went viral, two Australian actors, Eryn Jean Norvill and Sophie Ross, canvassed the anonymous experiences of theatremakers across the country. (Norvill is currently embroiled in a legal battle, after a private complaint she made to the STC, against Geoffrey Rush, went public. Rush denies the allegations).

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Kenya lifts ban on Marie Stopes abortion services after warning lives are at risk

Women's News from the Web - Fri, 12/21/2018 - 04:19

Clinics reopen in country where backstreet abortions kill seven women a day and hospitalise 320

The Kenyan government has lifted a ban preventing the international charity Marie Stopes from providing any abortion services, following warnings the ruling endangered the lives of thousands of women.

The Kenyan ministry of health said on Thursday that an audit of Marie Stopes’ clinics had been completed and that the charity could resume post-abortion care services under “regular supervision”.

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Weekly Column: WRighteous

Women's eNews - Thu, 12/20/2018 - 16:04
WRighteous   Mount St. Helena   This is dedicated to Helena Zaslow whose heart is always beating in my heart, especially this time of year.   It was December 28, 2004 – in what now feels like a thousand years ago, and we – my husband Ken and I – got a phone call a little after three o’clock in the morning that our friend’s daughter had just died. Literally, she had just died. Her mother, our friend, Susan, screaming into the phone.  “An overdose,” she screamed, “an overdose.” We got in the car and drove to Connecticut and neither one of us remembers how we got there.  The world – the entire world – went dark. It was as if a light went out, and the world stopped, and I would wager many of you know exactly what I mean. The world stops. Helena was an entire galaxy wrapped in one; my God, she was sassy and witty and funny and beautiful and filled with a spirit that only matched her incredible sense of humor and her style. She was a warrior and a worrier, she was light and dark, she was soft and hard, and she was filled with so much pain. Sorrow-filled. My God, she wore her heart and her pain – her unbearable pain – on her sleeve, and she was only nineteen. She couldn’t bear to live in her own skin. I remember speaking at her funeral. I don’t remember what I said – but I do remember choking on most of the words. What do you say about a young woman who managed to change a room the minute she walked into it? How do you describe a human who was filled with all of life – every bit of it – the good, the bad, the ugly, the horrific, the broken, the awful – the beauty – and managed to sweep in and make you feel as if you were the most important person in her world for a minute or two or three; and change that person’s life because yes, yes, you can do that – you can transform a human life in a minute, or two or three with a word, a touch, a gesture, a hug, a kiss. She was a light – a klieg – that flickered for a fraction of a time.   We are here for a fraction.    A sliver.    A blink.   We are here on this earth and we witness moments that take our breath away. And we witness breath being taken away. And we witness the very best of humanity and the worst of humanity. And we shrink and we cower and we offer up hope and love and goodness. And we are filled with fear and we are fearless – fierce and mighty, broken and shattered – and we must stop caring what other people think of us and live our lives out-loud and with as much courage and bravery as we can muster. And stop caring so much that what we might say or what we might do may not make every single person happy because the truth is this: we are not here to please others, or cater to others, or live someone else’s life.    We are not here to master suffering.    We are here to be bold and audacious, and we are here to be the light.    To stand up – to stand in our very own shoes – and declare our worth, and own it, and to own every single bit of our lives – and not just lease it or rent it – but to own it outright; and if we have the chance to shine a light on another life – if it’s only for a fraction, a sliver, a blink – then that is what we do even when the light in us is dimming.   We shine a light for however long we are here.   I will shine my light in memory of Helena for as long as I am here.

amy ferris

author. writer. girl. Women’s eNews weekly columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. She was also honored by Women’s eNews as one of our ‘21 Leaders for the 21st Century‘ for 2018. Every Friday, you will continue to be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism.

Sylvia Pankhurst paintings of women at work acquired by Tate

Women's News from the Web - Thu, 12/20/2018 - 02:23

Four watercolours bought from suffragette’s family with funds from betting billionaire

Four watercolours of working women by the suffragette and human rights campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst have been acquired by Tate using funds from the billionaire Denise Coates.

The paintings show women at work in the cotton mills of Glasgow and the potteries of Staffordshire, and are part of a series that Pankhurst made as she toured industrial working environments in 1907.

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The latest Woody Allen story is creepy, but let’s not call it criminal | Sofka Zinovieff

Women's News from the Web - Thu, 12/20/2018 - 02:22
I don’t defend the film director over his alleged affair with 17-year-old Christina Engelhardt, but the realities of power and sex are complex

I love the #MeToo movement. As the mother of two daughters, I’m delighted to see the rebalancing of a system that was skewed to allow sexual exploitation by men in power. I also salute the way society is facing up to long-ago crimes, and that adults who were sexually abused as children are bringing charges against people who believed they’d got away with it.

However, as a child of the libertarian 1970s and as a former anthropologist, I am sometimes appalled when the rigidity of the law fails to allow for the complex intrigues of body and heart in matters of sex. Occasionally, our pendulum swings towards puritanism.

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Girl, 10, dies after female genital mutilation in Sierra Leone

Women's News from the Web - Wed, 12/19/2018 - 21:00

Renewed calls for country to end practice after girl bleeds to death following mass initiation into secret society

A 10-year-old girl has died after undergoing female genital mutilation during a mass initiation into a secret society in Sierra Leone.

The girl, one of 68 involved in the rite, bled to death on Tuesday following complications from the FGM procedure.

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Swedish women-only music festival found guilty of discrimination

Women's News from the Web - Wed, 12/19/2018 - 01:32

The Statement festival was found to be in breach of gender discrimination law but will not be penalised

A Swedish event billed as “the world’s first major music festival for women, non-binary and transgender only” has been found in breach by Sweden’s discrimination ombudsman (DO).

The inaugural Statement festival was held in Gothenburg in August following a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised 533,120SEK (£46,555). The DO opened an investigation into the festival in July.

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Exclusive Investigative Report: Harvard’s Pediatric Nutrition Star Comes Under Scrutiny for Conflicts of Interest

Women's eNews - Tue, 12/18/2018 - 16:57

One of Harvard’s highly regarded physicians and a national expert in pediatric nutrition, who has guided policy for the American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Dietary Guidelines, has come under scrutiny for his financial connections to fast food and infant formula industries. In March, 2018, Harvard University’s Office for Academic and Research Integrity quietly concluded an investigation into a complaint against one of its most prominent physicians, Dr. Ronald Kleinman, amid growing concern that these financial connections were influencing his research and public statements as a leading expert on developing nutritional guidelines for America’s children.

Kleinman’s experience includes serving as the Charles Wilder Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, Physician-in-Chief at MassGeneral Hospital for Children, and the Chief of Partners Pediatrics in Boston (Partners is the largest health care system in Massachusetts which was founded by MassGeneral). He has also served as chairman of the Committee on Nutrition for the American Academy of Pediatrics, editor-in-chief of four editions of the AAP’s Nutrition Handbook, and on the board for US Dietary Guidelines, which devise nutritional recommendations for millions of Americans, among other key roles.

Kleinman has an extensive list of past and present known financial connections to the fruit juice, cereal, and infant formula industries, including work as a consultant for Burger King  (these industries appear to be at odds with optimal nutrition for infants and children). Harvard’s review did not find any official fault, but due to recent investigative reporting by the New York Times and ProPublica, light has been shed on the conflict of interest for scientists in all fields. Potential conflicts of interest that directly impact mothers and infants therefore merit additional consideration. This article reflects Women’s eNews’ investigative reporting on this issue.

Kleinman’s connections to the infant formula industry, and a failure to disclose those relationships when publishing research on breastfeeding, have drawn particular ire. In 2016, Kleinman and two other physicians co-authored an article published in the highly-regarded peer-review journal, JAMA Journal of Pediatrics, which was viewed as critical of the Baby Friendly Hospital initiative, a global initiative designed to promote better breastfeeding practices in hospital maternity units. Specifically, the study entitled, Unintended Consequences of Current Breastfeeding Initiatives, reported the rooming-in practice, where a baby stays in the same hospital room as the mother at Baby Friendly Hospitals, could, as Time Magazine described, lead to mothers’ accidentally smothering their children and possibly contribute to sudden unexpected postnatal collapse, a rare but often fatal respiratory failure.”

A Failure to Disclose Long-Term Relationships

At the time, Kleinman failed to disclose his deep financial ties to Mead Johnson, the parent company of Enfamil infant formula, which spanned eight years (2006 to 2014). He had also received an honorarium from Mead for chairing the Mead Johnson Iron Infant Nutrition Panel, funding for a hospital initiative (which he described as a “fruitful partnership”), and was the author of two Mead-funded studies. His other connections to formula companies included co-chairing two Nestle Nutrition Symposia (Nestle is the parent company of Good Start formula and has been the subject of a seven year boycott by breastfeeding advocates for their egregious marketing violations). Kleinman told Women’s eNews that he no longer has an ongoing relationship with Nestle.

Additionally, Kleinman has published at least six articles in the last three years, which some advocates claim are critical of breastfeeding initiatives.  Two of these articles appeared in the academic journals, JAMA Pediatrics and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (at least two others were funded by Mead Johnson, and a fourth was funded by Nestle).  In an email response to Women’s eNews, Kleinman responded that his previous failures to disclose his industry connections were an “inadvertent omission.”

In a more recent article published in the November issue of JAMA Pediatrics critiquing the skin-to-skin guidelines for the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, Kleinman disclosed his vast industry connections, including financial ties to the infant formula maker Mead Johnson, General Mills, Ocean Spray and the Alliance for Potato Research and Education (APRE), among others. He also disclosed serving on the board of trustees of the International Life Sciences Research Foundation, the grant-making arm of a food industry group whose member companies include Coca-Cola, Dow Agrosciences/Dow Chemical, General Mills, Hershey Foods, Kellogg, Kraft, McDonald’s, Merck & Co., Monsanto, Nestle, PepsiCo, Pfizer and Procter & Gamble.

“Now that we finally see the full scope of Kleinman’s conflicts of interest, it is still unclear how all of these conflicts do not raise ethical flags for Harvard, and why a highly respected journal such as JAMA Pediatrics would still publish his research,” says Kimberly Seals Allers, author of The Big Letdown—How Medicine, Big Business and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding.  “These studies influence public health policy for infants and children — they deserve more stringent guidelines for integrity, not business-as-usual behavior.”

After several researchers complained about the 2016 article, JAMA issued a correction in January, 2017, adding Kleinman’s disclosure of an honorarium from Mead (the prior hospital funding went unmentioned). The Mead-funded studies and Nestle symposia fell outside the three-year range JAMA requests for conflicts of interests, though experts believe the bias that comes from such financial connections can last well beyond three years. JAMA’s disclosure practices came under scrutiny last week in a recent New York Times article, which details that many physicians fail to fully report their financial ties to industries.

Key Influence on Nutritional Policy for Children  

Experts and advocates have questioned why Kleinman would be allowed to have any financial ties to industries that seem to be at odds with the best childhood nutrition, particularly when giving advice to low-income populations. The 2008  study he authored was funded, in part, by the Juice Products Association (Kleinman later published an article citing the role fruit juice can play in WIC offerings and a child’s diet, despite nutritionist warnings that juice is high in sugar). Further, in addition to now serving as the chair of the WPC for the 2020 DGA guidelines, Kleinman previously served on the Burger King External Advisory Board and as a consultant for General Mills and Beech-nut foods. He also received an honorarium for chairing a presentation and meeting on vegetables sponsored by the Alliance for Potato Research and Education, and later authored a 2016 review paper on vegetables with that same sponsor which concluded that more potatoes were healthy for a child’s diet. (In response to our specific questions, Kleinman said that during his time spent in Peru in his 20s, he witnessed the importance of a potato as a staple food, and that there are approximately 100 countries worldwide that depend on the potato as a major source of nutrition.)

What makes Kleinman’s financial ties concerning to other nutrition experts is that he is in a unique position to issue prolific nutrition guidance. In addition to his work on the 2010 US Dietary Guidelines for All Americans, he is the editor of the fourth, fifth, and sixth editions of the Academy’s Pediatric Nutrition Handbook. These publications provide popular nutritional information that guide decisions by physicians and policy makers, as well as guidelines parents often consult when making food and nutrition decisions for their families.

“Disclosure alone doesn’t solve the problem,” says Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, though of no relation to the company by the same name, “but it does provide context necessary for evaluation, especially in well respected journals. If I were a peer-reviewer of [Kleinman’s 2016] paper, I would say, ‘Do not publish.’ I don’t care what the science says. This paper has a very high probability of bias.” In her latest book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat, Nestle documented that in 156 of the 168 food industry sponsored studies she followed, results favored the sponsors’ interests.

Formula Industry Targets Breastfeeding Research; Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative Hit  

Not surprisingly, as breastfeeding initiation rates have risen, so has the influence of formula funding for breastfeeding research, notes Lucy Sullivan, executive director of 1,000 Days, a nonprofit dedicated to the health of women and young children. “It’s made the Baby Friendly Hospital initiative a target for formula companies,” she says, “and for a $71 billion industry, that is a really big deal.” As part of receiving the Baby Friendly accreditation, which requires the completion of 10 total steps, hospitals only dispense infant formula when medically required, and mothers do not receive any free infant formula upon hospital discharge, as is common in many hospitals.

Kleinman said, in an email response to Women’s eNews, that the articles he published are “not critical of breastfeeding,” pointing specifically to language in his 2016 JAMA piece that reads, “Promoting and supporting breastfeeding during the postpartum period has been an important and appropriate priority for maternity units.” The article further recommends that ‘Hospitals should direct their efforts toward implementing practices that will promote breastfeeding safely.’

Still, it was the study’s title, introductory paragraph and use of the phrase ‘potentially hazardous practices’ that garnered the most media attention. This study led to sensationalistic headlines and was quoted in media to paint breastfeeding as dangerous, including a reference in a provocative Time Magazine October, 2017, cover story about the overwhelming demands of motherhood. “Anecdotal reports indicate this is having a negative impact on hospital care practices and reduced support of breastfeeding,” says Trish MacEnroe, Executive Director of Baby-Friendly USA. An independent Google Scholar analysis also shows that Kleinman’s article has been viewed and cited more than any other Viewpoint articles related to breastfeeding in JAMA that year. “While the full extent of the damage is not quantifiable, the commentary offers a highly speculative interpretation of the presented data. Its publication in a respected journal [JAMA Pediatrics] confers more credibility than is warranted,” MacEnroe says. She also reports that this article has been used by organizations seeking to stoke fear about breastfeeding exclusively.

Experts say the rise of Baby-Friendly Hospitals, which recently celebrated its one- millionth birth and now has over 500 certified hospitals in the US, has played a key part in the rise of  breastfeeding rates in the US.  From 2009-2015, more women not only started breastfeeding, but were also breastfeeding longer and doing so exclusively, as measured at both the three and six-month marks. Additionally, MacEnroe says that another 534 hospitals are in the process of certification, resulting in falling infant formula sales.

Industry Funding, Shown to Influence Outcomes; Yet Likely to Continue

Kleinman says that most studies conducted with industry funding serve as “important means of advancing knowledge and science, and the outcomes are clearly not influenced by the funder.” In a statement to Women’s eNews, specifically, he describes the standards that he and his colleagues adhere to when conducting such studies, including acknowledging the funding in the report, research being initiated by the investigator, and that such research is conducted completely independent of the corporate funder. By following those rules, which Massachusetts General Hospital has put in place, Kleinman concedes that some high-profile examples of industry-initiated studies have not had the “appropriate firewalls,” but believes that he always “adhere[s] to these rules for independence.” 

“Industry funded-studies and honorariums like those Kleinman receives are likely to continue, as long as industries continue to get the outcomes they seek,” Professor Nestle cautions. “As both researchers and industry leaders have learned, however, outcomes from industry funded studies have a strong probability of favoring the industries’ interests, although the researcher may deny any impact.”

Rebecca Gale is an award-winning journalist based in Bethesda, Md. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Slate, and Health Affairs, among other outlets. Follow her at @beckgale or find her work at www.Rebeccagale.org.

This article is part of a series from The Maternal & Child Health Communication Collective, a W.K. Kellogg Foundation-funded initiative to shift the national discourse on the socio-cultural factors influencing the health of mothers and infants.

Nevada becomes first US state with majority-female legislature

Women's News from the Web - Tue, 12/18/2018 - 14:24

Appointment of two Democrats in Las Vegas means 51% of 63 state legislative seats are now filled by women

Nevada became the first state in the US with an overall female majority in its legislature on Tuesday when county officials in Las Vegas appointed two women to fill vacancies in the state assembly.

The appointments of the Democrats Rochelle Thuy Nguyen and Beatrice “Bea” Angela Duran to two Las Vegas-area legislative seats give women 51% of the 63 seats in the legislature.

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Global pay gap will take 202 years to close, says World Economic Forum

Women's News from the Web - Tue, 12/18/2018 - 08:11

Gender equality has stalled, says WEF, as women globally are paid 63% of what men get

The global pay gap between men and women will take 202 years to close, because it is so vast and the pace of change so slow, according to the World Economic Forum.

The WEF, which organises the annual meeting of business and political leaders in Davos, said the global gender pay gap has narrowed slightly over the past year, but the number of women in the professional workplace has fallen. In 2017, the WEF estimated that it would take 217 years to close the pay gap.

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Museum to shed light on women who shaped transport in London

Women's News from the Web - Tue, 12/18/2018 - 07:42

Project aims to explore untold stories of important women in male-dominated workforce

They include the women of Willesden bus garage who sparked a nationwide strike over equal pay in 1918, Joy Jarvis, who designed London Transport’s distinctive “roundel” seat fabrics, and Hannah Dadds, the first female tube driver.

The often untold or little-known stories of important women in the history of London transport are being highlighted as part of a new project, Where Are All the Women?, at the London Transport Museum.

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