Global Good News 11.03.19


BY GAYLE JO CARTER 11.03.19

An Aspire look at some of the positive changes in women’s lives around the world.

 

AFGHANISTAN

More than 700 women from across the country gathered to send an unequivocal message to the men now negotiating with the Taliban. Their message: they want peace but not at the cost of women’s rights. American diplomats are holding talks with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, but the Afghan government is not involved.  Afghani women fear that a peace deal could bring the Taliban back into the government, leaving women and girls vulnerable to a new wave of the sort of edicts that constrained their lives until the group’s overthrow in 2001.  Of the hundreds of women who came, exactly one wore a burqa — the all-encompassing garment that women were once required to wear by the Taliban. American and Taliban negotiators have agreed in principle on the framework of a deal in which American troops would withdraw in return for a Taliban pledge that Afghanistan would not be used by terrorists.

CHINA

To encourage women to work and have children at the same time, China is taking a stand against gender based discrimination in the workplace. A new government directive bans Chinese employers from posting “men only” or “men preferred” job advertisement. It also prohibits companies from asking female job applicants about their marriage and childbearing plans or requiring applicants to take pregnancy tests. Widespread and persistent discrimination against mothers in the workplace has seen Chinese women delay having children in order to stay competitive in the job market. Companies that violate the anti-discrimination rules are subject to a fine of up to £5700 and other disciplinary actions.

FRANCE

After years of opposition, the conservative and male dominated Académie Française, which polices the language, decided there is no “obstacle in principle” to the feminisation of the names of jobs and professions, with most changes unlikely to breach the basic rules of the language. But there would, it said, be no attempt to set fixed rules on how titles should be feminised, this being an “insurmountable task.” Instead, the academy will allow usage to evolve organically.

GLOBAL

In an exclusive interview with The Guardian to mark International Women’s Day,  Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund’s [IMF] Managing Director discusses the fund’s latest research which show that employing more women and tackling sexism in the workplace is the key to making the world economy richer, more equal and less prone to devastating financial collapses.  Lagarde said that in addition to producing research papers, the IMF is pressing member countries to put into action policies that empower women: urging India to improve transportation to make it easier for women to get to work and calling on Morocco to change its inheritance laws. She added that advanced countries also had room to improve, citing the need for France and Germany to tax men and women separately rather than jointly when they live in the same household. Female participation in advanced countries was still way below that of men and the gender pay gap among the rich country members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development – a thinktank for developed nations – was 16%. The IMF had a “teeny tiny” pay gap that was being addressed, she added. Asked who was getting it right, Lagarde said: “In the advanced countries, I would say Austria, which is changing its tax laws, and Japan, which has put its money where its mouth is and increased the budget for childcare facilities so that women can take jobs without feeling guilty.”

MEXICO

Dafne McPherson, a Mexican mother of one, was working in a department store in San Juan del Rio when she began suffering severe stomach pain. Unaware that she was even pregnant, she went to the bathroom and went through labour before passing out from blood loss. When she awoke in the hospital, prosecutors accused her of having murdered her baby by suffocating it in the toilet. McPherson was found guilty and sentenced to 16 years in jail. After three years in prison, McPherson was released at the end of January, after an appeals court found that the prosecution had used faulty scientific evidence to aid in her conviction. In Mexico, abortion remains illegal in much of the country — particularly in areas with conservative Catholic cultures and McPherson’s case is representative of a number of women who have found themselves targeted for prosecution under abortion law following stillbirths, miscarriages or other complications.

UNITED KINGDOM

Last month, twenty eight women dragged 28 suitcases across Westminster bridge in London to protest restrictive abortion laws in Northern Ireland and demand the expansion of abortion rights.  In an interview with The New York Times, Grainne Teggart, the Northern Ireland campaign manager for Amnesty International said the 28 demonstrators symbolised “the 28 women who are forced to make the lonely journey to England to access abortion services every week.” The women — including members of the British Parliament and television stars — marched to the office of Karen Bradley, a Conservative member of Parliament and the Northern Ireland Secretary in Westminster. They brought a petition started by Amnesty International and signed by more than 62,000 people asking the British government to take action to reform Northern Ireland’s abortion law. Each of the protesters carried a suitcase to Westminster — the first four contained sheets of paper with the 62,000 names of people who had signed the petition. Since Ireland voted to repeal its own restrictive abortion ban in May,  Northern Ireland has been under intense pressure to change its abortion laws, which ban the procedure in nearly all cases.

UNITED STATES

Women won big at last month’s Oscars: women captured a record 15 awards during the 2019 ceremony. The highlights:  

  • Bao was Disney Pixar’s first animated short to be directed by a woman. Domee Shi, who said the film was inspired by her Canadian upbringing with her Chinese parents, won the award with producer Becky Neiman-Cobb. “To all the nerdy girls out there hiding behind your sketch books, don’t be afraid to tell your stories to the world,” Shi said in her acceptance speech.
  • Period. End of Sentence – a film about fighting the stigma of menstruation, directed by a 25 year-old woman – won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short. “I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar!” said director Rayka Zehtabchi through tears. And then she went on to discuss the importance of fighting for menstrual equality worldwide – at the Oscars!
  • Hannah Beachler was the first black person to ever be nominated for the Best Production Design Oscar and she won for creating Wakanda and the rest of the superhero world in Black Panther.
  • Ruth E. Carter, in accepting her award for Best Costume Design for her work on Black Panther, began with truth: “This has been a long time coming.” Her win made her the third black woman to ever win an Oscar for an award outside of acting. (Hannah Beachler was the second.)
WRITE TO GAYLE CARTER

gayle@aspireforequality.com


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