Saturday, 19 April 2014

News for Today

Contributed by Suyog Shelar

Russia’s First Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill Under Consideration by Duma

The Investment in Women – How Yunus’s Grameen Bank Contributed to Eradication of Poverty by Empowering Poor Women.

“The process of breaking down fear was always my greatest challenge and it was made easier by the careful work and gentle voices of my female workers.”― Muhammad Yunus, Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty
The epidemic of poverty is wreaking havoc across women in different parts of the world. Data are showing a stark discrimination between women and men in terms of earnings and financial autonomy: more women than men work in vulnerable employment with low or no cash returns, and they spend more of their time on unpaid domestic tasks. Proportions of married women aging from 15 to 49 who were employed and earning cash income were significantly of much lower proportions than their married male counterparts. Gender inequality is also skewed in favor of men when talking about the rights of land ownerships and inheritance of properties. 
Mohamed Yunus, the Bangladeshi economist, proposed a revolutionary approach to empower the poor called “microfinance” or “microcredit” offered through the first bank for poor, Grameen Bank. Instead of borrowing money from loan sharks with unjust interests, Yunus offered the poor people, mainly women, small increments of money with much improved payment conditions. The microcredits contributed significantly in helping the poor people to overcome their debts and raise their quality of life. Repayment rates were very high thanks to the “solidarity groups”, where loans were given to people in groups to be self-encouraged to pay their debts collectively to Yunus so as to receive further support. Yunus described the first impressions from his peers upon the commencement of his project “I went to the bank and proposed that they lend money to the poor people. The bankers almost fell over”
Katherine Esty in her book “Twenty-Seven Dollars and a Dream How Muhammad Yunus Changed the World and What It Cost Him” has identified the causes that made women a very profitable choice for Yusuf to rely on: women always make better use of small loans than men as they focus their spending in ways that help to support their families over time not on luxury. Women abided by repayment schedules in a better way than men and thus were candidates to more flexible repayment facilitations when they faced financial hardships. Women also represented an untapped treasure of labor force that could be exploited for achieving sustainable profits. The financial empowerment of poor women was Yunus’s tenet in his economical revolution in Bangladesh. He believed that it is unfair that only rich men can borrow money from conventional banks while letting the population of poor to perish without their basic needs. Women who achieved savings adopted better lifestyles and this may be attributed to their compliance with the “Sixteen Decisions”. These decisions embraced by Yunus and Grameen Bank prompted the people to send their children in schools, keep a smaller family size, behave honestly with each other and maintain a clean environment. As a result, almost all Grameen borrowers have their school-age children enrolled in regular classes, “When a destitute mother starts earning an income, her dreams of success invariably center around her children. A woman's second priority is the household. She wants to buy utensils, build a stronger roof, or find a bed for herself and her family. A man has an entirely different set of priorities. When a destitute father earns extra income, he focuses more attention on himself. Thus money entering a household through a woman brings more benefits to the family as a whole.” said Yunus.
Grameen Bank has achieved outstanding figures, since The Grameen Bank Project was transformed into a formal bank in 1983; US$11.35 billion has been distributed to poor individuals without the need for them to provide collateral. The Bank now has approximately 8.35 million borrowers, 96% of which are women. The Bank claims that approximately 65% of their borrowers have clearly improved their socio-economic conditions and lifted themselves out of poverty. Yunus and Grameen Bank were awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for their work in fighting poverty and empowering women in Bangladesh and many followed in their footsteps in different parts of the world. The philosophy that Yunus adopted was replicated by others and showed promising results, “To me, the poor are like Bonsai trees. When you plant the best seed of the tallest tree in a six-inch deep flower pot, you get a perfect replica of the tallest tree, but it is only inches tall. There is nothing wrong with the seed you planted; only the soil-base you provided was inadequate. Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong with their seeds. Only society never gave them a base to grow on.” said Yunus.
The Bangladeshi Government is trying to seize control over Grameen Bank, thus threatening the sustainability of the project that serves millions of poor women and their families. Yunus was forcefully ousted from his position as a manager for Grameen Bank, and that move was condemned by different bodies all over the world, “I feel extremely sorry that the nation has to go through the unnecessary traumatic experience of seeing a great global iconic institution, created by this nation, be brutally harmed by a group of irresponsible and thoughtless people,” said Yunus.
It is our mission to support what Yunus strived for in the past three decades. The Bank for Poor must continue serving the poor women and developing their lives. The public opinion will be the shield that protects Grameen Bank from the corruption of the Bangladeshi Government. All of us are yearning for the day when global poverty is totally demolished and for the sake of that dream, Grameen Bank will have to flourish!
By Ahmed Magdi Youssef                                                                     
- The World’s Women 2010 – Trends and Statistics. Department of Academic and Social Affairs, United Nations, 2010
- Muhammad Yunus: Ending Global Poverty. MIT World, Semptember 14, 2005.
-  5 Reasons Why Muhammad Yunus Focuses on Lending to Women. Katherine Esty, Bill& Melinda Gates Foundation, January 10, 2014.
- Why Muhammad Yunus and the Women of Grameen Matter. Vivian Norris, Huffington Post Business, March 9, 2011.
- Yunus flays Bangladesh's 'destruction' of Grameen Bank. Agence France-Presse, Global Post, November 6, 2013.

Friday, 18 April 2014

News for Today

Contributed by Karol Arámbula:

'The Confidence Gap' (The Atlantic):

'Japan, South Korea to discuss 'comfort women' almost 70 years after World War II' (CNN):

'These are the 21 female authors you should be reading' (TIME):

'Hipster Science: Women prefer men with facial hair' (Yahoo News):

'Who wants to increase the pay gap between men and women' (MSNBC):

'India's politician aren't listening to women' (BBC):

'Sticking women with the office housework' (The Washington Post):

How do Single mothers survive?

By Aastha Kapoor
Wonder why a lot of women suffering from domestic violence continue to stay in bad relationships? Wonder why they don’t move away for a life of peace and tranquillity? Because they are worried; sometimes about themselves but mostly about their kids. How will a single mother be able to bring up her children all by herself, who will fend for their needs and all those looks by the neighbouring aunt – how will she persuade them why she did what she did. And hence she decides to let the danger sword linger over her head for as long as forever till she has accepted her sufferings as her fate. The End of story. Poignant end. There are very few who think through and question themselves on what better upbringing are they being able to give to their kid when all he sees is his father slapping or hitting his at frivolous excuses-what impact does this violent imagery have on his psychology -What ideas of love, compassion or mutual understanding will he understand from his ethics class when he sees a completely different picture altogether at home.
 Before getting despondent, hear a little good news. The picture is not same everywhere. There are some neon colourful strokes on the otherwise plain painting. There are all sorts of examples from women who are trying to move atop their sorry state of affairs. Single mothers, some by choice like Sushmita Sen who never married but adopted two daughters , some who  divorced  their alcoholic husbands and others who  accidently lost their love-no matter what the circumstances, the one thread that binds all these women is that they have proved to be brave and faced all ordeals with courage. At some time they have been looked at by leering eyes with raised eyebrows and whispering taunts. Yet these are the same women who moved ahead and chose a life of dignity for themselves and their kids. Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet and Denise Richards are the more popular examples; there are countless others who have found a way out. There is Lalita Booth whose love for her child took her from a state of homelessness to a double degree at Harvard University [1] and her story in her own words is a testimony that ordinary women can do ordinary things extraordinarily if they believe to set themselves free[2]. There are other women I have personally known who took up sewing or teaching or went back to education to survive in this world. These moms did not look for any excuses, they resolved to look ahead. Single moms are my heroes, my role models and no amount of respect and admiration can do full justice to them.
Their lives are nothing but lessons.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

News for Today

Contributed by Karol Arámbula:

'For young women, sexual violence is the new normal' (Think Progress):

'Fighting harassment against women with beautiful street art' (The Huffington Post):

'Shakespeare's women took second place' (The Australian):

'Social Security Chief: Women live longer, so they should save early' (NPR):

'First women step into artillery positions as US military opens combat jobs' (The Guardian).

'Finding may explain why women more likely develop Alzheimer's' (News Science):

'Why we all should care about the women's economy' (Forbes):

'Women's heart-attack symptoms and treatments often differ' (Newsday):

Contributed by Suyog Shelar
Why is it so important for women to be included in peace processes?

Morocco women march to demand gender equality

Narendra Modi as prime minister would roll back women's rights in India


India's general election begins next week, and Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the rightwing Bharatiya Janata party, is said to have a good chance of winning. If this happens, Modi's political party and other member organisations of the Sangh Parivar family of Hindu right organisations, will consolidate their powerful grip on India's institutions.
Gender violence and women's rights continue to be highlighted in India by the massive anti-rape movement which arose in the wake of the horrific gang rape and murder of a student in Delhi in December 2012. How will this movement and its key demand of "freedom without fear" for women be affected if Modi becomes prime minister?
The Sangh Parivar approach to women's rights and gender violence is clearly illustrated by women's status in Gujarat, the state where Modi has been chief minister for 13 years and which he projects as a model of development. According to 2011 census figures, Gujarat has 918 women for every 1,000 men, below the national average of 940, hinting at a high level of female infanticide. School enrolment of girls is lower and malnutrition among children higher than nationwide. As for violence against women, the state conviction rate for rape and abduction of women are among the lowest in India.
However, it is the fascistic violence of the Sangh Parivar that, more than anything, indelibly marks women's lives in Gujarat. During the 2002 pogrom against Muslims, women and children were specifically targeted. Countless women and girls were raped; nearly 2,000 men, women and children were massacred, and 200,000 displaced. The attacks, as the British high commissioner noted in a leaked report, were "planned, possibly months in advance … with the support of the state government … reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims is impossible while the chief minister [Modi] remains in power".
Nishrin Jafri Hussein, whose father, the former MP Ahsan Jafri, was brutally murdered in the violence in 2002, described her visit to the villages around Gujarat's capital, Ahmedabad, three months after the violence took place. People took her, she said, to the "narrow lanes, small houses, places where the TV and NGOs were not allowed" and she met the survivors, women and young girls. "They had been raped, tortured, their parents killed, their children killed before their eyes. … It was the same lane after lane, house after house." Nishrin's mother Zakia Jafri has filed a petition against Modi accusing him of complicity in the attacks. Modi denies his involvement and has been cleared in several legal inquiries.
Since 2002 the Hindu right's gangs have repeated this brutal violence: first, in the eastern state of Orissa in 2007 against the Christian minority, whose families – like those in Gujarat – are yet to be rehabilitated; and last year in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, against Muslims in the run-up to Modi's election campaign. In village after village in Muzaffarnagar, women tell of incidents of rape and torture strikingly similar to those in Gujarat in 2002.
Whether in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh or elsewhere in India, the violence has not been spontaneous. Sangh Parivar politicians have instigated, organised and justified it, creating tropes of Muslim men as rapists and abductors of Hindu women, and urging Hindu men to regain their masculinity by raping Muslim women.
The notion of the "love jihad" deployed in Muzaffarnagar is typical. It claims, with no factual basis, that Muslim men seek relationships with Hindu women in order to convert them and increase the Muslim population as a result of this. In the UK, too, the organisations of the Hindu right have taken up this myth, making baseless allegations of "love jihad" in British universities in 2007, which were immediately seized upon by the police despite the absence of any evidence for such "conversions".
The Hindu right has mobilised Hindu women to lead some of its most violent attacks, but this is underpinned by a deeply patriarchal ideology in which women serve the nation as wives and mothers, and domestic violence is condoned. Young women who are seen as transgressive face attacks by Sangh Parivar thugs in the name of "moral policing".
Modi has been endorsed by India's billionaires, to whom he promises more ruthless repression of the widespread resistance to corporate land-grab. For women in the resource-rich but impoverished regions targeted by corporations, it will mean further intensification of the systematic sexual violence which has been used by armed gangs who try and break this resistance.
British foreign and commonwealth office minister Hugo Swire has made it clear that the relationship with Modi is in "the UK's national interests" – meaning the interests of British business – and David Cameron, despite his oft-stated concern for human rights and gender violence, is waiting eagerly to welcome Modi to Britain whether he becomes India's prime minister or not. If Modi wins, however, the many struggles rocking India – violence against women, state repression and human rights – look set to intensify.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Clinton in Portland: Women's rights will boost economy


PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Hillary Rodham Clinton says empowering women isn't only moral and just but also an economic imperative.
The former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state spoke Tuesday evening in Portland as part of the World Affairs Council of Oregon's international speaker series featuring women changing the world.

Clinton says nations' economic prosperity is limited when half their population is excluded from schools and workplaces. She says foreign leaders were most receptive when she'd make an economic argument for women's rights.
But she also says the United States and the rest of the developed world also need to improve, pointing to the gap between wages for women and men.
Clinton, a potential 2016 Democratic candidate for president, is on a three-state Western speaking tour that began earlier Tuesday in San Francisco.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)