Women's News from the Web

Nasreen Sheikh: From an Unremarkable Birth, to a Remarkable Life

Women's eNews - Sun, 06/23/2019 - 16:49

“From the moment of my birth in a southern Nepal border village, I was taught that my existence was unremarkable. Growing up I witnessed so many atrocities against women that, by age 9 or 10, my life seemed destined for the same oppressive path. I worked 15 hours per day in a Nepali sweatshop as a child laborer, receiving less than $2 per grueling shift, and only if I completed the hundreds of garments demanded of me. I ate, slept and toiled in my prison-cell sized sweatshop workstation, too afraid to even look out the window. By about age 21, my family had arranged a forced marriage for me. But through the help of a kind stranger who taught me to read and seize my destiny, I escaped the sweatshop and forced marriage.” -Nasreen Sheikh

Nasreen Sheikh does not know her birthday or her exact age. That is because in her native southern Nepal border village, girls’ births are not recorded in any official record. “From the moment of her birth, society tells the rural girl child that her existence is unremarkable,” Nasreen says. “If one’s own birth does not matter, then the conditions in which she lives, works, strives, suffers and dies also do not matter.” These words served as the opening to Nasreen’s presentation at the Women Deliver Global Conference earlier this month, where over 8,000 world leaders, influencers, advocates, academics, activists, and journalists flocked to Vancouver to hear about the risks, challenges and triumphs of numerous women and girls, all working to create a gender equal world.

For Nasreen, who was determined to empower disadvantaged women, she did so by launching the Local Women’s Handicrafts, a fair trade sewing collective based in Kathmandu, Nepal. LWH is a social enterprise that empowers and educates disadvantaged women by providing a paid training program in design, sewing, weaving, embroidery, knitting, jewelry making and pattern work. To date, LWH has trained hundreds of Nepali women – many of whom escaped forced and abusive marriages, and all of whom are determined to escape poverty.

Nasreen’s seamstresses and artisans sew beautiful handicrafts each day and, in the process, sew the pieces of themselves back together as well. She has also launched a powerful public health and education initiative by making and giving away hundreds of biodegradable antibacterial sanitary pads to rural women and girls who cannot afford basic hygienic supplies. She also leads body image and women’s health workshops in cramped rural schools and villages for those who often suffer in silence and stigma.

Nasreen shatters everything anyone believes about the limitations of women, child laborers, fair trade, or even your environmentally irresponsible plastic water bottle. Although only 10 years ago, Nasreen could barely read or write, she is now giving talks around the world about her work and the plight of child laborers and survivors of forced marriage for such international conferences as the Foreign Trade Association (Brussels), Google (America), women’s conferences, dozen of universities and recently gave a TEDx talk.

“I envision a world where women are leaders in their communities, they are in control of their own lives, their own rights, and their own decisions.” – Nasreen

Girls will see a path for themselves if we show how engineering makes a difference

Women's News from the Web - Sun, 06/23/2019 - 13:01

When people ask what it’s like to be a woman in this sector, I long for the time we stop boxing people into stereotypes

If there was a single key to levelling the gender imbalance in engineering and technology careers, we’d have cracked it by now. Plenty of evidence shows programming of prejudice starts with babies, and girls begin to be put off engineering between the ages of five and nine.

We need a shift in thinking so people are treated as individuals from birth rather than pigeonholed. There are many good initiatives targeting teenagers – we just need to reach younger children.

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Parenting guides teach us everything – except how to be parents | Eva Wiseman

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 06/22/2019 - 21:59

From breast feeding to sleep training, there is a manual to help new parents. But how useful are they really? And don’t they just make us feel even more stressed?

Visiting a maternity ward last week I saw the oddest thing. A series of posters designed to promote breastfeeding, each one a disembodied white woman’s torso. The first featured her tits being groped by a variety of hands. “Bond with your baby,” said a slogan over the tit pictured stage left, a child’s hand covering the nipple. And above the second tit, this one enclosed by a pink male hand, the words, “Bond with your man.” OK. The next poster showed the tits in a leopard-print bra, a baby sucking on one nipple, and the slogan, “Designer mum. Designer milk.” An involuntary shudder. Not just at the suggestion that the reason so many women bottle-feed their babies is to protect their “designer” bosom, but at the memory of drowning in similarly delirious mothering advice, in finding myself bleeding on a battleground, its lines drawn in crayon.

Parenting advice is big business, despite appearing to consist of just two contrasting ideas: the first, control the kid; the second, control yourself. The many millions of books written, about feeding, sleeping, carrying, playing, inevitably extend into a variety of things to buy, whether tech-driven sleep aids or parenting coaches, or “mumpreneur” networking events. And yet, despite so many parents’ shaky investments (at a time when their earnings must be impacted) much of the advice is offered without much, if any, serious explanation why.

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There are better answers than jail for women who have offended | Yvonne Roberts

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 06/22/2019 - 19:00

We can both deliver justice and give women a real chance of rebuilding their lives after punishment

Chris Tchaikovsky – queen of charisma, 6ft tall, witty, clever, the only one of six middle-class sisters to serve time in prison – was, for a period, head of the Happy Firm, a team dealing in stolen travellers’ cheques. Then she went straight, co-founding the charity Women in Prison. She died, aged 57, in 2002, but on Wednesday, her spirit will be at Westminster as women come to lobby their MPs to invest in a different kind of justice – one that works.

A year ago this week, the government published its female offender strategy. It contained much of what Tchaikovsky campaigned for over decades. The strategy says that if justice is to be delivered and reoffending reduced, prison for women, the majority of whom (85%) commit non-violent offences, should be replaced. In its stead should come sentences in the community and intensive support to address the issues common to chaotic lives – addiction, trauma, debt, homelessness. By and large, it’s not posh people who do porridge.

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Don't hate the Instagram engagement stunt – 'branded' love began long ago | Arwa Mahdawi

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 06/22/2019 - 02:00

Viral videos posted by social media influencers has drawn a lot of ie, but many ‘traditional’ rites of romance are based on ad campaigns

Dearly beloved, we are assembled here today to witness a heartwarming story of modern #love. I hope you’ve got tissues at the ready because it’s guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye.

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Busy Philipps on abortion: ‘Women have held on to a lot of this shame’

Women's News from the Web - Fri, 06/21/2019 - 19:00

The actor and author who recently testified before Congress on why she got an abortion discusses the power in being vocal about uncomfortable experiences

Busy Philipps’ big dreams for the stage never included testifying before Congress about why she got an abortion at age 15. But with more and more US states passing extreme anti-abortion measures, she saw it as a responsibility.

“There is power to being vocal about your experiences as a person because whether we like it or not, people lack empathy, they lack the ability to understand someone else’s situation until they’re really faced with it – until it’s really shown to them,” she tells me over the phone, cutting out to field texts from her husband and make arrangements for her daughter’s hair appointment. “There’s a great deal of value in sharing all of our stories and experiences in order to elicit change.”

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No luxury: book containing tampons is runaway hit

Women's News from the Web - Fri, 06/21/2019 - 04:04

Protest against Germany’s 19% tax on sanitary products sells out first print run in one day

Open up a book and you can find a whole world. But the first book from the German startup the Female Company offers something more straightforward: within its covers are 15 tampons. And it is flying off the shelves.

The Tampon Book is a protest against Germany’s 19% tax on tampons as “luxury goods” – and a way of getting round it. Books are taxed at 7% in Germany, and so the founders of the Female Company, which sells organic sanitary products, decided to publish one and include tampons inside it. Released earlier this spring, the first print-run sold out in a day and the second in a week, said the publisher, with around 10,000 copies sold to date. Only the English-language edition is currently available.

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Senior Islamic cleric issues fatwa against child marriage

Women's News from the Web - Thu, 06/20/2019 - 20:00

Deputy grand imam of al-Azhar calls for marriage based on mutual consent with minimum age set at 18

One of the world’s most prestigious centres of Islamic learning has issued a fatwa against child marriage, saying marriage should be based on the consent of both parties and “particularly the young woman”.

The deputy grand imam of al-Azhar, considered by some Muslims to be the highest authority of Islamic jurisprudence, hammered out the document with his team and young activists at the first African summit on child marriage and female genital mutilation, which took place in Senegal this week.

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Lloyds Pharmacy apologises to woman refused emergency contraception

Women's News from the Web - Thu, 06/20/2019 - 04:19

Pharmacy says sorry after staff member refused to dispense product for ‘personal reasons’

A pharmacy chain has apologised after a woman was refused emergency contraception because the pharmacist said it went against her personal beliefs.

Siani, 41, who did not want to give her surname, pre-ordered and paid for contraception online through the Lloyds Pharmacy website.

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Pakistan to create 1,000 courts to tackle violence against women

Women's News from the Web - Wed, 06/19/2019 - 14:39

Chief justice says in televised speech that abuse survivors will be able to ‘speak their heart without any fear’

Pakistan is to set up more than 1,000 courts dedicated to tackling violence against women, the country’s top judge has announced, seeking to tackle a problem activists say the criminal justice system has long neglected.

Chief justice Asif Saeed Khosa said the special courts would allow victims to speak out without fear of retaliation in the conservative Muslim country, where domestic violence is often seen as taboo.

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Society is obsessed with women’s genitals. So why are ads for sex toys still taboo? | Yomi Adegoke

Women's News from the Web - Wed, 06/19/2019 - 07:05

Dame Products is suing the company that runs New York’s subway for rejecting its tasteful advertisements for female sex toys. Strangely, there were no objections to similarly suggestive ads aimed at men

Given society’s obsession with women’s sexual organs – how they should look, how they should smell – it is ironic that they are so intentionally concealed. The latest attempt to obscure any mention of women’s nether regions comes from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the company that runs the New York subway, which has rejected adverts by women’s sexual health startup Dame Products showing sex toys. Dame is now suing the MTA over its decision.

Although the MTA maintains that the promotion of “sexually oriented business” has long been prohibited, the definition appears to be slippery (much to its disgust, no doubt). Several sexually suggestive, tongue-in-cheek-and-God-knows-where-else ads have been allowed, including ones for condoms and erectile dysfunction medication.

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Women outperform men after Japan medical school stops rigging exam scores

Women's News from the Web - Tue, 06/18/2019 - 18:16

Juntendo University says abolishing unfair treatment of women is behind rise in entrance exam scores

Women have outperformed their male counterparts in entrance examinations for a medical school in Japan that last year admitted rigging admission procedures to give men an unfair advantage.

Juntendo University in Tokyo said that of the 1,679 women who took its medical school entrance exam earlier this year, 139, or 8.28%, had passed. The pass rate among 2,202 male candidates was 7.72%.

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In Case You Missed It: The Ninth Annual Elly Awards

Women's eNews - Tue, 06/18/2019 - 15:25

On Monday, June 17th, The Women’s Forum of New York hosted the 9th Annual Elly Awards Luncheon benefiting The Education Fund of the Women’s Forum. The awards, named for the Women’s Forum founder Elinor Guggenheimer, honor outstanding women leaders, and this year marked the 32nd anniversary of the Education Fund of the Women’s Forum, which has helped over 260 women, age 35 and over, whose lives have been disrupted by extreme adversity, complete their college degrees.

The 2018 Women’s Forum of New York Education Awards Fellows

“The Education Fund of the Women’s Forum has transformed lives, influenced families, and improved communities,” says Barbara Marcus, President, The Education Fund of the Women’s Forum. “Launched thirty-two years ago to help other women realize their dream of a college education, The Education Fund has awarded over $1.8 million in financial awards to over 260 women to help them return to school, earn their degree, and take their place in the professional work world. Many of these women have overcome very difficult circumstances to realize their dream of a college education.  We are proud to support their efforts.”

The Women’s Forum of New York is an invitation-only organization of more than 500 women representing the highest levels of achievement across all professional sectors and spheres of influence in our city. Founded in 1974, when women were first entering the executive ranks, today’s Women Forum members are recognized among New York’s thought leaders, influencers, trailblazers, policymakers, change agents, power brokers, innovators, icons, creators, and business builders.

The Education Fund is the educational and charitable arm of The Women’s Forum of New York, established under a separate corporate governance as a 501(c)(3) tax deductible organization. Since 1987, the Fund has provided financial awards to women 35 and over who have demonstrated high potential and faced extreme adversity which has disrupted their education and derailed their futures. These women fall outside the scope of most traditional scholarship programs and these awards help them complete their education and get their careers and lives back on track.

This year’s awards recipients included Katie Couric, award winning journalist, producer, New York Times bestselling author, cancer advocate, podcast host, documentary filmmaker, and former co-anchor of the Today Show on NBC; Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, representative for the District of Columbia and former Professor of Law at Georgetown University, and Muriel Fox, Board Chair of Veteran Feminists of America and former Executive Vice-President of Carl Byoir & Associates.

“The Women’s Forum of New York is comprised of the most accomplished and successful women in the city from every professional sector,” says Linda A. Willett, President of the Women’s Forum of New York. “We know from our own success how critical education is, so our Education Fund is one way we ‘give back’ – helping women age 35 and over whose lives have been disrupted by extreme adversity complete their education and get their lives back on track. We hope we inspire them, because their dreams, drive, and determination certainly inspire us.”

The 2020 application will be available on or before September 1, 2019. To learn more, please click here.

Rail union in push for more female and BAME train drivers

Women's News from the Web - Sun, 06/16/2019 - 13:01

Just 6.5% of drivers in England, Wales and Scotland are women, and 8% are an ethnic minority, says Aslef

A campaign to increase the number of female, BAME and younger train drivers is being launched after a study revealed the “glaring gap” between their numbers and those in the population they serve.

Aslef, the train drivers’ union, said just 6.5% of drivers in England, Wales and Scotland were women, 8% were from a minority ethnic background and 15% were under 35.

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Book excerpt: 100 TIMES: A MEMOIR OF SEXISM

Women's eNews - Sun, 06/16/2019 - 12:08

When she was 5, the little boy Chavisa Woods was playing with pinched her butt. His mother, upon hearing the story, told her she probably liked it. When she was 36, a cab driver locked the doors and wouldn’t let her out until she gave him her phone number. In 100 TIMES: A MEMOIR OF SEXISM (Seven Stories Press; June 25, 2019), Woods lays out one hundred personal vignettes of the sexism, harassment, discrimination, and sexual assault she’s experienced in her life. The incidents, which range from lewd comments to attempted rape, take place when she was growing up in poor rural Southern Illinois, when she was working in St. Louis as a young adult, when she was living with her girlfriend in Brooklyn, and when she was a Shirley Jackson Award-winning author and three-time Lambda Finalist writing this book.

While Chavisa Woods chronicles these 100 stories to show how sexism and misogyny have impacted her life, something else happens simultaneously: she lays bare how these dynamics shape all women’s lives, and how relentlessly common they are. She underscores how thoroughly men feel entitled to women’s spaces and to their bodies, and how conditioned women are to endure it. It’s impossible to read 100 TIMES as a woman without cataloging one’s own “Number of Times.” As Woods writes in the book’s introduction, “It’s not that my life has been exceptionally plagued with sexism. It’s that it hasn’t.”

Excerpt: #11

When I was twelve years old, a friend of my mother’s, a fifty-year-old man, began talking to me while I was standing away from the crowd at a family barbecue held by my mother’s side of the family. This older man told me I was beautiful and that I had my mother’s hips, and asked me if I wanted to go on a boat ride with him. I said I would love to, and that I didn’t even know he owned a boat. He said he had a big boat and that the motor purrs, then he pursed his lips and “blew raspberries,” making a fake motor sound with his lips. I was confused. He laughed and asked again if I wanted a boat ride from him. I didn’t answer. He explained to me that a “boat ride” is when a man puts his lips “down there” on a girl (he pointed to my crotch), and “blows raspberries,” and it feels good.

Brooklyn-based writer Chavisa Woods is the author of the short story collection Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country (Seven Stories Press, 2017), the novel The Albino Album (Seven Stories Press, 2013); and the story collection Love Does Not Make Me Gentle or Kind (Fly by Night Press, 2009). Woods was the recipient of the 2014 Cobalt Prize for fiction and was a finalist in 2009, 2014, and 2018 for the Lambda Literary Award for fiction. In 2018 Woods was the recipient of the Kathy Acker Award for Writing and the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novelette.

People often sneer at it, but small talk is hugely significant | Eva Wiseman

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 06/15/2019 - 21:59

It’s a social lubricant, a way of easing the day or the foreplay to a deeper connection. These are the small shared moments that bind us together

Every week my dad’s family would gather at an auntie’s house and argue about the best route to Ridley Road. They would drink tea and describe, with glee and not a flake of detail spared, the buses they’d each taken, and the madness of having started in the wrong place, always. Arguments about shortcuts and the benefits of the No 38 would roll around the table like pennies as whole weekends passed quite happily with absolutely nothing of worth or depth apparently being shared at all. Like a Monet, the fine art of small talk (an art that is under threat) is best viewed from a distance.

“I hate small talk,” is a phrase one hears regularly today. “I have no time for it,” boast introverts, swishily. It is classed as the very worst of the talks, the Garibaldi of the talks, the Home Alone 3, the Phoebe, the Ryanair, the Niall Horan of the talks. It is treated with a disdain usually reserved for Esther McVey by Lorraine Kelly. Small talk is commonly spoken of as shallow, as dull, a stain on the otherwise flawless shirt of our humanity. Christ, there are even apps to help you avoid it, as if small talk were a traffic accident that must be driven around. As Uber trial an option allowing customers to select “Quiet preferred” when they book a car, alerting their driver to their preference for “no small talk”, it’s time, I think, to plead its case.

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Sarah Sanders' job was to be the female face of a misogynistic administration

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 06/15/2019 - 02:00

Sanders helped to roll back women’s rights while allowing the Trump administration to boast about ‘empowering women’

Sign up for the Week in Patriarchy, a newsletter​ on feminism and sexism sent every Saturday.

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Adwoa Aboah: ‘I thought I was hideous. I wanted to jump out of my skin’

Women's News from the Web - Fri, 06/14/2019 - 23:00

The supermodel turned mental-health activist on how battling dyslexia, drugs and depression helped her find her voice

Adwoa Aboah’s clothes are causing a stir, and not – as you might expect from one of the world’s most recognisable models – in a fashion sense. Her team are worried that her black hoodie, featuring the colourful logo of a young, disruptive sportswear brand, won’t fit with the podcast she is recording about girls’ mental health when the pictures go up on Instagram.

Aboah’s not having it. “Nah – these are my boys,” she says, of the designers behind the hoodie. “Anyway, would you prefer the one I have on underneath?” She lifts her top to reveal a white T-shirt that says: “Blowjobs are real jobs.”

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Swiss women strike to demand equal pay

Women's News from the Web - Fri, 06/14/2019 - 02:27

Hundreds of thousands protest against ‘culture of sexism in everday life’

Hundreds of thousands of women across Switzerland have taken to the streets to demand higher pay, greater equality and more respect, protesting that one of the world’s wealthiest countries continues to treat half its population unfairly.

Nearly 30 years after the first nationwide equal rights demonstration by Swiss women, a “purple wave” of pram marches, whistle concerts, extended lunch breaks, giant picnics and city-centre rallies took place on Friday.

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'There are almost no women in power': Tokyo's female workers demand change

Women's News from the Web - Wed, 06/12/2019 - 20:42

Japan has a 27.5% gender pay gap and ranks just 110th in the world for gender equality – but social change is slowly happening

Last week, after Yumi Ishikawa’s petition against being forced to wear high heels at work went viral around the world, responses ranged from solidarity – with some cheering Ishikawa and denouncing “modern footbinding” – to surprised disappointment. In 2019, in a liberal democracy such as Japan, could the issue of women’s rights still be stuck on stilettos?

But the global spotlight on the hashtag #KuToo (a pun on a word for shoes and a word for pain) may have obscured what’s really happening in Japan. “It’s so trivial,” says one senior female publishing executive, who wished to remain anonymous. After all, on the streets of Tokyo, there is a growing movement for real change for women, not merely more comfortable footwear.

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