News for the Week of August 28, 2002

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES -- Wife of the President and Chairwoman of the UAE General Women's Union, GWU, H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, has reiterated that the future political role of the UAE women is promising and augurs well for the UAE women under the wise leadership of President H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who consistently emphasises the importance of political career for women, a policy that demonstrates his strong support for women's aspirations and their entitlement to hold higher positions in all fields.

Sheikha Fatima announced that the Personal Status and Social Rights Draft Laws are ready to be presented to the Federal National Council, FNC, in its next session. This came in an interview held with Sheikha Fatima by the Egyptian magazine "Nisf Al Dunyaa" in the issue to be published tomorrow, Saturday August 24, during which Sheikha Fatima expressed her views on a number of issues concerning women on both local and Arab levels.

On the Arab level, Sheikha Fatima said that the forthcoming Arab Woman Summit to be held in Amman at the end of October is required to explore all possible means to extend help and support for the Palestinian women to enable them overcome the hardships they face under the continuous Israeli aggression, noting that the Palestinian women are the most to bear the brunt of the Israeli repressive actions. Her Highness said that in the Women and Media Forum hosted by Abu Dhabi last February, she was keen to endorse women media convention among the member countries in the Arab Women Organisation, adding that she is looking forward to this convention to be adopted by the next summit and that practical mechanism for its implementation will also be set up.

In this context, she stated that it is of crucial importance to launch an Arab satellite channel to highlight woman, child and family affairs, strengthening brotherhood links between the Arabs and protecting their identity against globalism that endeavours to overwhelm our societies, imposing it cultural hegemony, thus threatening our Islamic and Arab identity. Her Highness added that this channel should take into consideration the characteristics of each Arab country, respect its traditions and act as a connection link with others to enhance our national causes.

The following is the text of the interview.

Q: The Arab Women Summit Conference and the emergence of its subsequent forums are considered an opportunity and an achievement for the Arab women. If we examine the first forum held under the title "Women and the Law in Bahrain, may we ask of what benefit it was to the Emarati women in its recommendations which emphasised the importance of having special laws in each country to protect women, especially in the personal status laws, taking into account that such laws had not yet been promulgated in the UAE?

A: Some might think that we are lagging behind in the issuance of this law, but I assure you this is not the case. It is our genuine desire to review and scrutinize the law in details, measure its consistency with Islamic Sharia Rules and to benefit from the previous experiences of other countries to ultimately attain the objectives we aspire to achieve, that is, family stability, and at the same time, safeguard our traditions and Islamic values that had long ago addressed the personal status and social rights.

However, we are about to promulgate this law, which will be ready to be discussed by the FNC during its next session. Women had contributed in formulating the articles of this law, through the GWU, being the body that represents women in the UAE. The GWU held several conferences, sought Sharia and legal opinions from well-known scholars. These opinions have been submitted, after being formulated, to the legal bodies undertaking this project. Naturally, the GWU benefited from the Law and Women Forum, that was hosted by Manama in April 2001. During the discussions we came to know vital points, and bridged the gaps which we discovered.

Q: With regard to "The Women and Political Forum" held in Tunisia and its recommendations that aim at achieving progress of women in the Arab politics-What is the future of the Emarati women, in terms of politics, especially at a time the Gulf Area is contemplating changes that would necessitate the participation of all members of the society. When the Emarati women will be allowed to participate in the House of Representatives? And when will see an Emarati women ministers?

A: The political future of the Emarati women is promising and augurs well for women under the wise leadership of President H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who consistently emphasize the importance of women political work, and their rights to occupy higher positions in all fields. Perhaps there are no women ministers, but in fact, there are distinguished and successful women in the various ministries of the country in the capacity of Under and Assistant Secretaries.

Just for the record without mentioning their names, we have a woman Under Secretary for the Ministry of Education, another for the Ministry of Social Affairs, and a third for the Public Works Department. I might add that Dr. Aisha Al Sayyar, is the first Assistant Under Secretary of a ministry in the history of the UAE since its establishment in 1971.

Shortly we will see the Emarati woman as a minister, and we will proudly and confidently follow her success in this prominent task to embody her equality with her other half in serving the national issues in all walks of life. As a matter of fact, the political role for the Emarati women is no longer a dream, because this is an inherent right, in line with religion, constitution and the support of the UAE President.

However, allow me to clarify a point, at the present time we have no elected house of representatives, but we have the FNC made up of a certain members from each Emirate, whose names are nominated by the Emirate itself and submitted to the President of the UAE for approval. In view of this, I am glad to say, that time has come for the Emarati women to become a member in the FNC. The GWU will nominate and submit to the President names of some distinguished women to approve one or two women to be members of the FNC. I hope other Emirates will follow the suit in the light of their Highnesses, Supreme Council Members and Rulers of the Emirates' support for women.

Q: The UAE has achieved remarkable strides in the economic field- this benefited women, avoiding to become a mere pattern of consumption? And what benefits she acquired from the "Women and Economic Forum" that was held in Kuwait, which aimed at encouraging small industries and participation of women in the economic future of her country?

A: First, I reject describing the Emarati woman as a mere consumer. She was not and would never be so. We in the UAE do not make distinction between man and woman. Equality in the economic field is almost on an equal footing. The country offers women farms on a par with men. Banks in their dealings allow equally loans to men and women, on the merits of their business activities without distinction between the two genders. We are proud that our country occupies leading and pioneering position in the economic sector.

For instance we have a council for businesswomen in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. What I want to say is that, the UAE has wide experience and expertise in this field. The Economic Forum in Kuwait was an opportunity to present the UAE experience and it has won the respect and admiration of all the participating delegations in the forum held few months ago. This does not mean we have not benefited from the experiences of others, on the contrary, the discussions and recommendations revealed that we are on the right path, and this gives us confidence in ourselves and not self-conceit.

Q: In the Women and Media Forum hosted by Abu Dhabi, there was a clear concern to improve the image of the Arab women in the mass media. Its recommendations included the necessity of establishing an information centre about women, and the establishment of a satellite channel for the Arab family outside the umbrella of the Arab League. To what extent the achievement of these recommendations reached?

A: The next summit that will be held in Amman, the Jordanian capital on October, will discuss the recommendations that were issued by the Women Media Forum held in Abu Dhabi last February. Among the most important recommendations agreed upon, was the media convention project for women. I wholeheartedly support this convention. Its articles, are direly needed to be implemented, as well as, setting up its mechanism. In my view, this matter should not end up in the shelves of libraries and fall into utter oblivion and neglect. To avoid this I put forward a crystal clear strategy and its details will be presented to the women leaders during the summit conference. Naturally, I will not now disclose its details, before it is being discussed by the summit, since it will be subject to amendment, omissions and additions.

Evidently, the summit is required to support the idea of establishing the Arab satellite channel. I am not disclosing a secret if I say that we are in the process of launching this channel. We have visualised the work plan of the channel and contribution is open to officials and public establishments in the Arab world, whether such contribution is financial or technical to feed the channel with media cadres. This channel will be an independent entity, outside the control of any state, having a board of trustees and aboard of directors to steer its work and policies.

The channel will devote its programmes to the women and family affairs, safeguarding the identity of the family against globalisation laws that invade our societies, aiming at imposing Western culture and hegemony on us. We hope that this channel will take into consideration, the characteristics of each Arab country, respect its customs and traditions and also it is hoped that it will link us with the world to enhance our national causes.

Q: What are the issues that the UAE has prepared for discussion in the upcoming Arab Women Summit in Amman? And secondly, what is your assessment of the Arab women work during the last two years?

A: The idea of holding a women summit may have come too late. Nevertheless, it became a reality in the end and undoubtedly it lent a substantial support to joint women work. This is quite evident in the outcome of the first women summit in Cairo in 2000 and the subsequent meetings and specialised workshops held in 2001. I would say that whoever had closely observed those activities must have appreciated the proactive role that Arab women are taking in addressing various issues. It could also be seen from the follow up meetings that Arab women are committed to the implementation of all resolutions adopted in their summit. So yes I'm satisfied and proud of what has been achieved so far. But much still needs to be done, considering the enormous challenges that are facing the Arab nation.

As I have always said, we should not pass instant judgments about those meetings because what matters are the long-term outcome rather than short term achievements. One of these long terms benefits is that women leaders would eventually gain confidence and experience and would be better placed to work effectively towards achieving greater Arab unity. Having said that, a comprehensive and objective assessment of what has been achieved so far will be made during the October Summit in Amman.

The summit will examine both the successes and the shortcomings and I think current developments will figure highly on the agenda, particularly the difficult conditions faced by the Palestinian women. The summit will explore ways for providing support to Palestinian women, who are the most affected by the Israeli aggression.

Q: Could Arab Women summits and other affiliated associations play a role in unifying Arab ranks and thereby strengthen Arab unity?

A: Indeed, women can play a greater role in this regard. The meetings and summits that are regularly held by Arab women have the strong backing of their majesties, their Highnesses and Excellencies the leaders of the Arab world. This support is based on their understanding and appreciation of the pivotal role which Arab women could play in promoting the spirit of fraternity among brothers. This is crucial to the realisation of the goal of greater Arab unity.

Q: The successes made by women in Arab countries are attributed first, to their own efforts, and secondly to the support accorded to women work by Arab leaders in those countries. This is quite evident in the support lent to women work in the UAE by H.H President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Does this suggest that women cannot achieve anything on their own without men's support?

A: First of all, we must stress that without self-confidence and motivation, women could not have made the achievements that they made. It is also obvious that without the support of political leadership in Arab countries, women cannot work single-handedly. Your question gives the impression that men and women are competition. If there is such a notion, then it is absolutely wrong. There has never been such a competition in the past and there never will in the future, especially in our Arab and Islamic societies. Man and woman have all along been the two poles of the family and they complement one another. So instead of looking for competition and differences, let us look for ways of complementing one another and achieve noble goals for the common good of our societies.

Q: Despite her openness to the outside world, especially via the satellite channels which have no boundaries, and despite the huge presence of foreign nationalities in her country, yet the Arab woman in the UAE succeeded to persevere her identity. How was this balance achieved?

A: It was indeed a delicate balance, considering the fact the world has become a global village which everyone can tour by just pressing a TV button in their house. We owe this success to H.H President Sheikh Zayed who has upheld his heritage and culture and sought to preserve it. He also raised his children in accordance with his indigenous culture and heritage.

Our children at schools are also keen to cope with other positive aspects of modernity such as computers, but with out disassociating themselves from their heritage. As Sheikh Zayed has always said: "who ever has no past has no future", much emphasis was laid on heritage and in line with this vision a heritage centre was set up and affiliated to the Presidential Court. So we have evolved a system whereby the society is capable of filtering foreign cultural stuff, taking what is useful and discarding what is against the values of the society.

Q: The fundamental role for any woman is that of a good mother. In recognition of this role, the Council of Ministers approved the establishment of a Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childcare. When is this institution going to start functioning and what are its objectives?

A. We have gone a long way in this project and it will come into being soon. Preparations are currently underway and issues such as the budget, the administrative structure and other issues are being worked out and once these issues are completed, the final structure will be submitted to the Federal National Council and the Council of Ministers for approval.

The authority will operate as an independent body, but affiliated to the council of ministers. As for its objectives, it will oversee women and childcare issues in coordination with various government departments. As you are aware, there is an ever-increasing need for a comprehensive strategy in the country to boost the welfare of this social category and elevate them to new thresholds. It will also identify relevant issues, undertake studies and make appropriate recommendations.

Q: Your Highness, after the great honour conferred upon you this year by being selected as the "Educationist of the Year 2002", what are new educational projects that you intend to accomplish in this field?

A: I'm extremely delighted by this great honour. It is of great moral value to me because it shows that the efforts which we have been exerting during the last 25 years have yielded positive results. So I would say that despite having received many regional, Arab and international awards, this award is of special value as it proves the correctness of my approach. However, my greatest reward is to see UAE girls scoring one major success after the other in all areas. This is my ambition.

I also believe that it is by education that women become well equipped to discharge their responsibilities and become full and proactive members of the community. Illiteracy on the other hand remains the main enemy of our society and it has been my dream to see the day when illiteracy will be eradicated in the UAE. The UAE Women's Union is making considerable efforts in this regard, and it suffices to say that the number of secondary school graduates from adult education increased from 121 in 1980/81 to 851 in 1999/2000.

Q: The UAE was the first to endorse the formation of the Arab Women Organisation. What are the goals that you aim to achieve through this organisation?

A: It is true that the UAE was the first country to endorse the formation of the organisation because we believed that there was a need for such an organisation. We hoped that the organisation will play a leading role revitalizing the contribution of women in the development of their societies in various field. It will upgrade joint Arab work and strengthen solidarity among Arab women. We also hope that it will raise awareness on women issues and ensure that they are high on the agenda of socio-economic policies. (The Emirates News Agency, The Emirates August 24, 2002 WAM)

NIGERIA -- Over the years, elections in Nigeria have reflected the unequal power between men and women. While men dominate the political terrain as party chieftains and candidates for offices, women play the secondary role of supporters. However, as more women are coming out vocal and stronger, Andrew Ahiante writes on an effort to support them in this regard.

In history of elections in Nigerian women have been mainly involved at the level of voting. But over the years, supported by international instruments such as the Beijing Platform of Action and commitments by the Nigerian government, women have not only expanded the political agenda to include themselves in national politics, but have also drawn attention to the gender dimensions in the guidelines issued for participation in the electoral processes.

Thus, to further promote this cause, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), last weeks held a workshop tagged: "Gender Sensitivity in Election Monitoring and Reporting". According to the organisation, the workshop was to sensitise the women on the need to make haste while there is still time in the coming elections.

The workshop which took place at the Excellence Hotel, Ogba, had as participants members of the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), the Electoral Reform Network (ERN), as well as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and political parties.

Talks on "Gender and Elections in Nigeria", INEC's guidelines for the voters registration and issues of concerns for women were seriously deliberated on by invited guest speakers which included Ms. Ada Agina-Ude of Gender and Development Action (GADA), Surulere, Lagos, Emeka Iheme of Libertarian Institute of Nigeria, Lagos, as well as Ms. Nimi Thom-Manuel of the National Council for Women Societies (NCWS).

Giving the objectives of the workshop, Ms. Funmi Balogun-Alexander, UNIFEM Interim Regional Programme Director for West Africa, explained that one major challenge for governance in Nigeria has been the need for sustained lobbying and advocacy by women groups and activists at the different levels, to ensure that all national institutions, structures and processes that guide governance and leadership are gender sensitive and non- discriminatory.

In this regard, she said, "UNIFEM is supporting the engendering of budgeting processes in Nigeria and has already conducted selected studies on budgetary allocation, expenditure and impact in selected states and sectors, and currently working to develop training materials for advocacy for different key stakeholders: civil society, legislators and government officials".

In her speech titled "Gender Sensitivity in the Electoral Process in Nigeria", she revealed that UNIFEM was also supporting the Justice Equality Programme in collaboration with the National Association of Women Judges, where female judges are being trained as trainers on international human rights instruments, including the Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). This, she said was to help such judges train their colleagues and magistrates to ensure that court judgments in Nigeria conform with international human rights principles in the protection and promotion of women's rights. The whole idea, she said was to enable women know their rights so that they could move away from the low level of political participation to that of active interest in what transpire at any level of government in the nation.

On a general note the meeting, she pointed out, was part of the agency's support to the electoral processes in Nigeria. "The last elections in 1999 as you are aware were hurriedly put together and organised to put an end to the debilitating military rule that had plagued Nigeria for decades", stressing that such were unfortunately characterised by flaws.

"Women are completely absent in areas like the setting up of electoral guidelines and rules, party primaries, active party membership, participation in party caucuses meetings and strategising, etc", she further said. She stressed that such presents obvious issues of concern for UNIFEM and all its partners and stakeholders.

What particularly worried the UNIFEM director was the fact that women did not actively participate in voting during the last elections in spite of the fact that women form about half of the population.
The meeting was to enable women provide a framework that will not only guide the work of INEC in promoting the participation of women, as well as guiding the work of election monitors, including the media, in identifying issues that might be hindering the participation of women for interventions and support".

Expantiating on the important issues, she mentioned.

It is also check the number of hours it takes to register/vote, how comfortable women were with male officials, violence, especially those directed at women, the protection of pregnant women and nursing mother check if women were being manipulated in anyway by their husbands, brothers and other male relatives and how overall INEC guidelines might impinge on women's right to participate in the electoral process", she noted.

Interestingly, Ada Agina-Ude did not spare women in what she called "concentration on the low levels of activities". In her review on "Gender and Elections in Nigeria", she said "even when women form the majority of voters at elections, put up substantial presence at campaigns and rallies as supporters and entertainers, but are rarely card carrying or registered members of political parties which deny them of both elective and appointive posts".

This also deny women of the opportunity to be at high level of public decision-making, because, as she puts it," they are unable to lobby for their interest". Indeed, statistics from last general elections showed that women constituted about 2.7 million out of the 47 million eligible registered voters. However, only 1.56 percent of them won elective posts. In appointments out of 49 ministers and presidential advisers appointed in 1999, only six were women and only four of 52 ambassadors of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are women.

It was also discovered that when the federal government appointed 750 persons to 137 federal boards last year, only 80 of them were women. The women noted that their political marginalisation did not just start in 1999. They claimed that in the First Republic in 1960, there were only four female legislators including Mrs. Wurola Esan and Mrs. Bernice Kerry at parliamentary level, while both Mrs. Margaret Ekpo and Mrs. Janet Muokelu were in the Eastern House of Assembly. They lamented that there were no female ministers.

Similarly, the Second Republic beginning from 1979 produced only one woman senator out of 95, 11 out of 445 in the House of Representatives, while there were no women in the state assemblies and no female councillor or chairperson. Also, the Babangida administration of 1985 to 1993 which was generally regarded as the era of political liberation for women presented only two out of 19 members in the political bureau.

Accordingly, Agina-Ude ascribed such low engagement of women in high political areas to the operations and structures of patriarchial leadership in Nigeria, leading to the establishment and maintenance of male supremacy and female subservience.

She observed that the stronghold of patriarchy is expressed in gender stereotypes and manifests in the practice whereby women participate at party functions merely as entertainers and refreshment providers. She was particularly irked by the fact that women queue up at polling booths to vote for candidates favoured by the men in their lives, and as expressed in the negative attitude towards female candidates including undue emphasis on their marital status and other inconsequential considerations.

Added to that, she enumerated obstacles to participation of women in politics to include constitutional constraints, harmful cultural practices, and negative attitudes towards women leadership, non co-operation of political parties, and lack of perseverance on the part of women.
Others factors, which she noted are lack of political will on the part of people in power, poverty and lack of fund for electioneering campaign, violence, illiteracy and ignorance on the part of voters.

She particularly berated the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which she said, "takes no cognisance of gender disparity in the various aspects of national life and therefore does not provide for gender equality in political participation or any other sector. "Apart from the general reference to non-discrimination on the basis of sex, etc, there is nothing in the constitution that is aimed at redressing the disparities that exist along gender lines in Nigeria", she further said.

Thus, a communiquo reached at the end of the workshop cautioned on political violence across the nation, stressing that such was capable of derailling the democratic process. The workshop taking into congnisance the recently concluded round of party primaries, said "the level of political violence in the country is so great that if nothing is done to abate it, our new democracy will derail".

Accordingly, participants suggested that as part of the measures aimed at reducing election-related violence, security agencies should be non-partisan and sensitive to the special needs of women, advising that the Chief Justice of Nigeria and judicial authorities like the Advisory Judicial Council and the National Judicial Institute to as a matter of urgency, lay down guidelines to prevent abuses of the court processes, especially in respect of the granting of injunctions.

Participants also called on the international community to prevail on government to curb violence and indiscriminate use of arms in electioneering. They suggested that this should contribute to the determination of the fairness of elections. In a communiquo, the workshop which observed among others the low level of participation of women in the political process, (whether as voters, party members and office holders, elected officials or electoral officers), said such fell short of internationally accepted standards, saying that it was an indictment on the Nigerian society.

Participants called on the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) to make the electoral process more gender-sensitive by introducing rules that encourage more women to take part in registration and voting. The civil society organisations commended UNISFEM for its effort at monitoring the political process, especially the voters' registration and elections, participants noted that there was an urgent need for the implementation of a programme of affirmative action for women both at the level of the political parties and constitutional reform.

"They should set up mechanisms to ensure that at least 30 percent of their officers and candidates are women. As part of the constitutional reform process and the legislative programme, measures should be introduced to ensure the entrenchment of affirmative action in all public offices", participants further noted.

"At the critical stage of the preparations for the next elections, INEC has not done enough to ensure that the electorate becomes aware of the changes that are being introduced into the electoral rules particularly as a result of the computerisation of the voters register. While we respect the rule of law and the right of aggrieved persons to go to court for redress, we are concerned that the indiscriminate use of court injunctions may disrupt the electoral process", participants said, urging that TMG re-doubles its efforts in the monitoring of the processes and leave its doors open to many more civil society organisations that may wish to join it and contribute to the exercise.

"It should also continue to show good examples by maintaining gender balance in its own structures", participants further said, adding that TMG, National Council for Women Society (NCWS) and other stakeholders do more on civic education so as to promote public awareness and the participation of women in the electoral processes". (Africa News August 20, 2002)

USA -- Researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have found that women in a large study who used estrogen replacement therapy after menopause were at increased risk for ovarian cancer. The report was published in the July 17, 2002, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The scientists followed 44,241 women for approximately 20 years. Compared with postmenopausal women not using hormone replacement therapy, users of estrogen-only therapy had a 60% greater risk of developing ovarian cancer. The risk increased with length of estrogen use. The women, who were followed from 1979 to 1998, were former participants in the Breast Cancer Detection Demonstration Project, a mammography screening program conducted between 1973 and 1980.

"The main finding of our study was that postmenopausal women who used estrogen replacement therapy for 10 or more years were at significantly higher risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who never used hormone replacement therapy," said James V. Lacey Jr., PhD, lead author of the study from NCI's division of cancer epidemiology and genetics. The relative risk for 10 to 19 years of use was 1.8, which translates to an 80% higher risk than nonusers, and increased to 3.2 (a 220% higher risk than nonusers) for women who took estrogen for 20 or more years.

Estrogen is a natural hormone produced primarily by the ovaries. After menopause, the ovaries produce lower levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. By the time natural menopause is complete - usually between ages 45 and 55 - hormone output decreases significantly.

As early as the 1940s, women began using estrogens in high doses to counteract some of the short-term discomforts of menopause (hot flashes, vaginal drying and thinning, and urinary tract incontinence and infections).

However, after it became clear in the 1970s that women who took estrogen alone had a six to eight times higher risk of developing endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus), doctors began prescribing progestin along with much lower doses of estrogen. Progestin is a synthetic form of the natural hormone progesterone. The addition of progestin to estrogen therapy reduces the increased risk of endometrial cancer associated with using estrogen alone. As a result, it has become increasingly common to prescribe estrogen-progestin therapy for women who have not had a hysterectomy.

In addition to studying the effect of estrogen use alone, Lacey and his colleagues looked at whether women using estrogen-progestin therapy were more likely to develop ovarian cancer. No increased risk was found. Lacey commented, "Even though our data showed that women who took estrogen combined with progestin were not at increased risk for ovarian cancer, only a few women in our study who developed ovarian cancer had used estrogen-progestin therapy for more than 4 years. So, at this point, there simply aren't enough data to said whether taking the combined therapy has any effect on ovarian cancer."

Past studies suggested that postmenopausal hormone treatments might be effective in preventing or reducing some of the negative long-term effects of aging, such as heart disease and osteoporosis. However, the results from a large multicenter clinical trial, also published in JAMA (2002:288:321-333), showed increases in breast cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, and blood clots in the lungs and legs for women on estrogen-progestin therapy for an average of 5.2 years.

The trial, part of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), also found fewer cases of hip fractures and colon cancer among women taking the combined therapy. However, because overall the harm was greater than the benefit, the trial was stopped, 3 years ahead of schedule. The WHI randomized trial for estrogen alone in women who have had their uterus removed is continuing.

Lacey emphasized the complexity of weighing the various risks and benefits of hormone use. "Because hormone therapy may influence so many conditions that affect women after menopause - cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, breast cancer, uterine cancer, gallbladder disease, blood clots, and now potentially ovarian cancer - we should no longer think of a woman basing her decision to use hormones on the potential risk of just one condition. Women should continue to talk to their health care providers about whether hormones might be right for them."

Previous studies looking at the effect of postmenopausal hormones on ovarian cancer risk have been inconsistent. Some reported increased risk with estrogen use while others reported either no effect or a protective one. Most of these earlier studies were relatively small and limited by incomplete information about ovarian cancer risk factors.

Two recent large studies found a link between hormone use and ovarian cancer. A large prospective study published last year (JAMA, 2001;285:1460-1465) showed that postmenopausal estrogen use for 10 or more years was associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer mortality, and a recent Swedish study (JAMA, 2002;94:497-504) reported that estrogen use alone and estrogen-progestin used sequentially (progestin used on average 10 days/month) may be associated with an increased risk for ovarian cancer. In contrast, estrogen-progestin used continuously (progestin used on average 28 days/month) seemed to confer no increased ovarian cancer risk. Lacey said that some of the unknowns concerning hormone use and ovarian cancer include the following:

*It is not clear from this study whether the increased risk with estrogen use is due to higher doses of estrogen, longer duration of estrogen use, or both dose and duration. It is also not clear whether long-term use of lower-dose estrogen is associated with ovarian cancer.

*Most women in this study were on the combined therapy for less than 4 years, so more data will be needed to determine whether estrogen-progestin use increases risk. The effect of long-term use of estrogen-progestin therapy is not known.

*The continuous regimen involves taking both hormones simultaneously throughout the month. The sequential regimen, on the other hand, involves taking estrogen every day, and progestin for 10 to 14 days each month.

*After taking estrogen alone, some women changed to a combined regimen after reports of increased endometrial cancer risk with estrogen alone. More data are needed to analyze the effect of switching from one regimen to another.

*Most studies have analyzed the use of estrogens in pill form, but it can also be administered by patches, shots, and creams.

Every year, about 23,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 14,000 women die from the disease. A woman's lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer is 1.7%. This means that in a group of 100 women followed from birth to age 85, fewer than 2 would get ovarian cancer. In comparison, about 13 women would get breast cancer (lifetime risk is 13.3%), fewer than 3 women would develop uterine cancer (lifetime risk is 2.7%), and between 16 and 32 women would develop osteoporosis.

An estimated 40 million U.S. women will experience menopause during the next 20 years, and women today are living approximately one-third of their life after menopause. Anywhere from 20-45% of U.S. women take some form of hormone therapy between the ages of 50 and 75. According to industry estimates, about 8 million U.S. women use estrogen alone and about 6 million U.S. women use estrogen-progestin therapy. About 20% of hormone users continue for more than 5 years. (Women's Health Weekly August 22, 2002)

USA -- Voters have the chance to elect a record number of female governors this year, the result of big strides women have made in state-level politics combined with a remarkably large number of open gubernatorial seats. Advocates hope to see the number of women governors rise from five now to as many as 10. At least 18 women from the major parties are now running, including a half-dozen who will face primary voters on Sept. 10 alone.

"It's the emerging of women as executive leaders," said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster working on campaigns in Alaska and Arizona. "It's really been 10 years in the process, of women being in office, building their resumes." So far, women have won major-party nominations in Arkansas, Kansas and Michigan, and strong candidates are running in Alaska, Arizona, Maryland and more. In Hawaii, both parties' front-runners are women. Three of the five sitting women governors aren't seeking re-election.

Political scientists say there have been more candidates before - some 34 women filed as major-party gubernatorial candidates in 1994 - but this year there are more experienced candidates with a real chance to win. Many other women are running as independents or third-party candidates.

Already, some women have had notable success. Jennifer Granholm, Michigan's attorney general, defeated two well-known male politicians for that state's Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Linda Lingle, the former mayor of Maui, is leading the polls for a shot to be the first female governor of Hawaii and the first Republican since 1962.

Two candidates already have national names - Janet Reno, seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Maryland's lieutenant governor. "It's important to remember that for all of these women, it didn't happen in a year," said Deborah Walsh, director of the Center for the American Woman and Politics at Rutgers University. "It took 30 years of running and winning and losing to get to this point."

Also, Walsh points out, with 36 governors' seats up for election - 17 of them open - if a large number of women didn't run it would be a real blow as women make progress in gaining other state offices. In 1971, for instance, 324 of the nation's state legislators, or 4.5 percent, were women. Last year, women held 1,680 seats, or 22.6 percent.

Women say they still get tougher scrutiny than men - about their family, and their stance on crime - but they're gaining in the push for equality. "I certainly get questions about my children, questions my opponents would never get. I'm not complaining about that," said Granholm, a former federal prosecutor. "Everyone's raised with certain images of women. It takes a long time to rewrite the script."

Women candidates note they have advantages over men on some issues. For example, the corporate finance and responsibility scandals play to their strengths, they said, and against old-boy politics and back-room dealing. Lengthy resumes also help answer doubts about women candidates.

Kathleen Sebelius, the Democratic nominee in Kansas, spent seven years as insurance commissioner and eight years in the state Legislature. Arizona's Democratic front-runner, Janet Napolitano, spent five years as the state's U.S. attorney and four years as state attorney general.

"We've come of age," said state Sen. Bev Hollingworth, a candidate for New Hampshire's Democratic nomination and a longtime legislative leader. Besides Lingle in Hawaii, all of the candidates with the best chance to win are Democrats. So far, six GOP candidates have lost bids for their party's nomination.

"Every woman candidate would say that they certainly want people to vote for her because she's the best candidate and not because of her gender," Granholm said. Candidates on both sides of the aisle also want to shift the attitudes of other women.

"My hope is it changes the willingness of women to participate in politics," said Lingle, in Hawaii. "Too many women are turned off by politics because they think it's dirty and back room." Some women's activists hope that winning more gubernatorial races will lead to the return of a woman on a national ticket; it's been 18 years since Geraldine Ferraro's historic run for the vice presidency.

But Walsh, at Rutgers, tempers high expectations. There's still a long way to go, she said. "I get very nervous when we start to proclaim all these years as 'years of the women,"' she said. "We set up some notion that we'll solve the problem of women's under-representation in politics in a single year." (Associated Press Online August 22, 2002)

USA -- Does George W. Bush have something against women? Hard to imagine, seeing as how he's married to one and father to two others. Why, then, is the president so reluctant to embrace an international treaty affirming basic rights for women in families far away? Surely his regard for womanhood doesn't stop at his own kitchen table.

He must know that not all the world's kitchens are home to well-treated women. Many are virtual slaves to their husbands and fathers _ deprived of education, of health care, of freedom to speak or work, of respect. Yet despite these sad facts of 21st-century life, President Bush is trying to block a global treaty that could ultimately bring liberty to the world's suffering women. Called the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women _ CEDAW for short _ it would do little to change the lives of American women. But over the long haul, it could become an instrument to nudge balky countries toward decent treatment of women.      CEDAW hardly counts as a new idea. It's been sitting around in the Senate since its submission nearly 20 years back. Its chief goal is to assure that women have the same access men have long enjoyed to education, to self-determination and to property ownership. After liberating the women of Afghanistan from the Taliban's thrall last winter, the White House was all for the treaty. But just as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved it last month, the administration was entertaining second thoughts.

What sorts of thoughts? After all these years, it's hard to imagine. Conjecture has it that this is another instance of administration kowtowing to right-wing worrywarts who fear that women's rights could actually be a cover for abortion rights. That's nonsense, of course, and fortunately the White House won't acknowledge it shares that fear. All it will say is that it needs "more time" to study the treaty. But what's to study? If the administration wants details, it can try these on for size: Two-thirds of the 125 million children who never go to school are girls. Two-thirds of the world's poorest people are women and their children. More than 100 million women worldwide have endured genital mutilation. Two million girls are sold into forced prostitution every year. Half a million women die every year as a result of pregnancy or childbirth. Another 1.3 million die of AIDS. In many nations across the globe, women are beaten and raped as a matter of course.

Which of these grim facts appeals to the White House? Surely none does. Indeed, these sad circumstances of women's lives were the original inspiration for CEDAW. No one dreams they can be rectified overnight. But the 170 countries that have signed on to the women's rights pact hold out hope that setting a clear standard of decency will slowly shame rights violators toward compliance. The strategy has worked with other human-rights ventures _ stirring once-recalcitrant countries to honor entitlements habitually flouted. There's every reason to think _ at least to hope _ that the approach will work with CEDAW.

If the Bush administration has a better idea, then out with it. (Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) August 23, 2002)

USA -- A young woman beginning classes today at UC Berkeley can be sure of one thing that wasn't true for her mom's generation: Her graduating class will have more women than men. Nationally, a record 58 percent of college graduates were women last year, and the diploma gap between the sexes promises to keep widening, according to U.S. Department of Education projections. It's the latest peak in a two-decade-long trend for women, who also graduate from high school and enroll in college at higher rates than men.

The girl power statistic may mean more to moms and grandmas who remember the old days, however, than it does to seniors like UC Berkeley political science major Gloria Mirazo. For the generation of women like Mirazo on campus today, picking up a diploma isn't an endgame, it's a necessary stop on the way to what they hope will be an equal payday with men. Armed with sheepskin, women are marrying later, delaying having children, focusing on their long-term careers and networking.

"It's not surprising at all," said the 21-year-old Mirazo, when told that 53 percent of UC Berkeley grads last year were women. "It's always been a given that's what I'd do." And necessary. While women may have the edge in diplomas, they still earn only 73 cents for every dollar men are paid, according to census figures released in June. And that's after women with at least a college degree saw their wages increase 12.8 percent between 1989 and 2001, according to a study by the independent California Budget Project. Men with a college degree saw their wages increase 10.8 percent.

"Women don't get the same earning power from their degrees as men," said New York University sociology Professor Kathleen Gerson, who is studying 18- to 30-year-olds for a book, tentatively titled, "Children of the Gender Revolution." Things have changed a lot since she graduated from Stanford in 1969, when there were two men for every woman on campus. Now, the numbers for Stanford grads are just about equal.

"But this generation is different," Gerson said. "They assume that men and women should be equal. The issues they're working out is how both partners can integrate work into family life."
And even though they may be better educated -- women earn the majority of master's degrees, but not doctorates -- they're still lagging woefully behind in areas where a good golf game means a lot.

Like how to tap into the old boys network for venture capital. About 93 percent of the venture capital is raised by male-owned companies, according to the Women's Technology Cluster, a San Francisco-based incubator for 22 companies run or co-founded by women. That's down from 96 percent four years ago.

"Women are going to business school to help build their network," said Kim Fisher, managing director of the Women's Technology Cluster. Men might be more likely to drop out of school to start a technology company, Fisher said, while women wait until they feel they have the knowledge and connections. "Part of it is a confidence thing, I think."

And Fisher bemoaned a different type of diploma gap, like how there aren't as many female engineers as men. When the 34-year-old Fisher was CEO of a 60-person technology company in the 1990s, only two of the 30 engineers were women.

"I'd have liked to have hired more women," she said, "but we just weren't seeing as many qualified applicants." Which isn't necessarily the case outside the office. Some experts warn that women will soon have statistical proof for an age-old lament of the sisterhood: There aren't a lot of good -- or at least smart -- men around. That, said Paul Harrington of Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies, will soon bring about a "marriage gap," where the pickings will be slim for women hoping to pair up with another college grad.

The pickings are even slimmer for college-educated women if they're looking for African American men, who receive about half as many college degrees as black women, and Hispanic men, who are outpaced 60 percent to 40 percent by Hispanic women.

"African American women have been talking about this for years," said San Francisco State sociology Professor Karen Hossfeld. "But apparently, it's becoming an issue elsewhere now, too." The "marriage gap" isn't about the emotional trauma of marrying down and not having someone to discuss foreign films with, said Harrington.

It's about how tough it will be to join economic forces with a fellow graduate, someone who is likely to make more money than a guy without a degree. "Especially with the cost of living out in the Bay Area, I would imagine (male degree-holders) are going to be more attractive to women," Harrington said.

It's a different twist on a point economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett raised earlier this year. The author of "Creating a Life" said that the more successful the woman, the more difficult it will be for her to find a mate or bear a child. Some women, however, said a college degree gives them the financial independence to marry a starving artist -- or someone they really care about. They say the myth of the "Mrs. degree" -- for women who enroll in college to troll for a mate -- died with Ozzie Nelson.

UC Santa Cruz economics Professor Lori Kletzer called marrying-down fears "old school."

"That whole notion strikes me as a weird sort of backlash," said Kletzer, who teaches at a school where 60 percent of last spring's graduates were female. "Like some way to scare women around from pursuing what they want to pursue." Said NYU sociologist Gerson: "Why wasn't this (diploma gap) such an issue 30 years ago when it was the other way around? To me, that says something significant, too. That society thinks it's OK for men to 'marry down,' but not women."

And for some men, the current diploma imbalance isn't working out so bad. Surveying the student bodies on Sproul Plaza from behind his wraparound shades on a cloudless day recently, UC Berkeley sophomore Justin Hoertling, like many men interviewed, cheered on the rise of female graduates. He smiled and said, "I'd say more women around is a good thing. I can't lie."E-mail Joe Garofoli at

USA -- Across the country, women are finding it harder and harder to maintain healthy lifestyles. A survey conducted in June 2002 by the American Heart Association revealed that 75 percent of women do not make healthful choices when it comes to diet and exercise. Physical inactivity and poor nutrition choices contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 killer of women.

"Studies have shown that women realize what it takes to reduce their risk for heart disease and want to reduce that risk, but they often aren't equipped with the tools they need to help them do so," said Rose Marie Robertson, M.D., director of the Vanderbilt Women's Heart Institute and past American Heart Association president. As a result, the American Heart Association is launching Simple Solutions, a free educational program sponsored by the California Walnut Commission that is designed to help women learn how to make simple lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke.

To meet the needs of survey respondents, Simple Solutions will provide participants with a series of communications including healthy recipes, nutrition and exercise tips which will reinforce the theme that living a healthy life can be achieved by taking one simple step each day. "The Simple Solutions program is just what women need to help them maintain healthy lifestyles," Julie Moran, former Entertainment Tonight host and Simple Solutions spokesperson, said. "My grandmother died of a heart attack at a young age, and I want to help prevent other women from suffering that same fate."

According to the American Heart Association's new primary prevention guidelines, women should begin discussing risk factors with their physician and reducing those risk factors in their twenties. "As women mature, developing careers and families and caring for aging parents become priorities, but they need to remember to make their own health a priority too," said Robertson.

Program participants can learn how to cut calories and increase physical activity with the help of tips such as:

-- Try adding a handful (2 oz, 1/4 cup or 4 whole walnuts) of walnuts and low-fat dressing to your salad in place of cheese, high-fat salad dressing and croutons. Research has shown that walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, which as part of a healthy diet may help reduce your risk of heart disease.

-- If you choose a baked potato, add a tablespoon of low-fat or fat free sour cream, which is lower in fat and sodium than margarine. Heap on the chives but skip the cheese and bacon.

-- Avoid grocery shopping when you're hungry. Walk around the outside aisles at the grocery store at least once before you start to shop.

-- Instead of just dropping off the kids for soccer practice, walk laps around the field while your kids play.

-- Mow your lawn (no riding mowers!). Rake leaves or grass to move and exercise your arms and shoulders. The lawn will look great, and you will have accomplished your daily workout.

Women can enroll in the Simple Solutions program by calling 888/MY HEART or logging on to

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association spent about $382 million during fiscal year 2000-2001 on research support, public and professional education, and community programs. Nationwide the organization has grown to include more than 22.5 million volunteers and supporters who carry out its mission in communities across the country. The association is the largest nonprofit voluntary health organization fighting heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, which annually kill about 960,000 Americans. For more information about heart disease and stroke, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit our Web site at

About the California Walnut Commission

Located in Sacramento, Calif., the California Walnut Commission represents the walnut industry, which has been a leader in health research for more than a decade. California's walnut industry sets the world quality standard and accounts for 99 percent of the commercial US supply and two-thirds of the world trade. One of the oldest foods, walnuts today are recognized for their flavor, versatility and health benefits. Research has shown that a 2-ounce serving of walnuts contain omega -3 fatty acids, which as part of a healthy diet may help reduce your risk of heart disease. Visit  CONTACT: California Walnut Commission Jennifer Plant, 415/956-1791 or American Heart Association Darlene Yblood, 214/706-1649  URL: (Business Wire August 22, 2002)

KUALA LUMPUR -- Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad today said the future of the country will be determined more by women who have demonstrated their ability to outshine men in many fields.

Paying tribute to Malaysian women at a gathering to mark Women's Day, the Prime Minister said in universities, 70 per cent of students were female. He said more women were also being appointed to senior government positions such as secretaries-general. The Government recognised the role played by women as evident from the creation of a separate ministry to look into women's affairs. However, Dr Mahathir said the Government was concerned about the future role of men and women in developing the country, especially in the era of knowledge and information technology.

He felt that both sides should shoulder the responsibilities together, saying this could only happen if the men were not left too far behind. The Government also did not want to see a troubled society as a result of development. "While we want women to work and contribute to the country, we also want the task of raising children and inculcating them with values be given priority. Women play an important role in the building of a happy family.

"We have heard of the many social ills affecting our children, partly due to a lack of parental attention. This is the danger of a modern society where both parents are working. "This is the dilemma we face: do we revert to the time where women take charge in the upbringing of children? But if we do so, we will lose out in terms of manpower and competitiveness."

Dr Mahathir admitted the best solution had yet to be found. He urged non-governmental organisations to seriously look into finding ways of striking a balance between building a happy family and women
helping to develop the country.

He said societies which marginalised their women would be left behind compared with those which provided ample opportunities for the fairer sex to succeed. "In some countries where women are segregated and victimised, they remain under-developed with peace difficult to attain." In Malaysia, with women making up half the population, Dr Mahathir said the country's manpower would be reduced if women were denied the chance to work. "As a result, we would become weaker compared with countries that do not neglect their women.

"They play an important role and this is a fact that we have to recognise. Therefore, do not belittle the contributions of women," he said to thunderous applause from the 15,000-strong crowd. At a Press conference later, Dr Mahathir said besides finding the reasons behind the poor academic performance of male students, the Government could only motivate them to excel.

"We cannot give them something extra when the females do not get anything extra," he said when asked on steps to be taken by the Government to correct the imbalance in the number of female and male undergraduates in universities.

Dr Mahathir also said as many mothers were now working, teachers at schools played a bigger part in moulding children. "But this responsibility should not be left to moral and religious teachers alone. All teachers have to play their role." Dr Mahathir said unfortunately, there were teachers who failed to discharge their responsibilities.

On the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English next year, Dr Mahathir said the Government was going ahead with preparations although public feedback was still being sought. He said if no major problem was encountered, the plan would be implemented although some changes might be made.

"We are making progress. We are listening to views of the people. We are very democratic. We don't force things on them, we listen to them and we find the best solution eventually." Dr Mahathir said the move was not about teachers' ability to teach the two subjects in English as they would act more as facilitators. (New Straits Times (Malaysia) August 26, 2002)

USA -- Voters have the chance to elect a record number of female governors this year, the result of big strides women have made in state-level politics combined with a remarkably large number of open gubernatorial seats. Advocates hope to see the number of women governors rise from five now to as many as 10. At least 18 women from the major parties are now running, including a half-dozen who will face primary voters on Sept. 10 alone.

"It's the emerging of women as executive leaders," said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster working on campaigns in Alaska and Arizona. "It's really been 10 years in the process, of women being in office, building their resumes." So far, women have won major-party nominations in Arkansas, Kansas and Michigan, and strong candidates are running in Alaska, Arizona, Maryland and more. In Hawaii, both parties' front-runners are women. Three of the five sitting women governors aren't seeking re-election.

Political scientists say there have been more candidates before - some 34 women filed as major-party gubernatorial candidates in 1994 - but this year there are more experienced candidates with a real chance to win. Many other women are running as independents or third-party candidates.

Already, some women have had notable success. Jennifer Granholm, Michigan's attorney general, defeated two well-known male politicians for that state's Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Linda Lingle, the former mayor of Maui, is leading the polls for a shot to be the first female governor of Hawaii and the first Republican since 1962.

Two candidates already have national names - Janet Reno, seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Maryland's lieutenant governor. "It's important to remember that for all of these women, it didn't happen in a year," said Deborah Walsh, director of the Center for the American Woman and Politics at Rutgers University. "It took 30 years of running and winning and losing to get to this point."

Also, Walsh points out, with 36 governors' seats up for election - 17 of them open - if a large number of women didn't run it would be a real blow as women make progress in gaining other state offices. In 1971, for instance, 324 of the nation's state legislators, or 4.5 percent, were women. Last year, women held 1,680 seats, or 22.6 percent. Women say they still get tougher scrutiny than men - about their family, and their stance on crime - but they're gaining in the push for equality.

"I certainly get questions about my children, questions my opponents would never get. I'm not complaining about that," said Granholm, a former federal prosecutor. "Everyone's raised with certain images of women. It takes a long time to rewrite the script." Women candidates note they have advantages over men on some issues. For example, the corporate finance and responsibility scandals play to their strengths, they said, and against old-boy politics and back-room dealing.

Lengthy resumes also help answer doubts about women candidates. Kathleen Sebelius, the Democratic nominee in Kansas, spent seven years as insurance commissioner and eight years in the state Legislature. Arizona's Democratic front-runner, Janet Napolitano, spent five years as the state's U.S. attorney and four years as state attorney general.

"We've come of age," said state Sen. Bev Hollingworth, a candidate for New Hampshire's Democratic nomination and a longtime legislative leader. Besides Lingle in Hawaii, all of the candidates with the best chance to win are Democrats. So far, six GOP candidates have lost bids for their party's nomination.

"Every woman candidate would say that they certainly want people to vote for her because she's the best candidate and not because of her gender," Granholm said. Candidates on both sides of the aisle also want to shift the attitudes of other women.

"My hope is it changes the willingness of women to participate in politics," said Lingle, in Hawaii. "Too many women are turned off by politics because they think it's dirty and back room." Some women's activists hope that winning more gubernatorial races will lead to the return of a woman on a national ticket; it's been 18 years since Geraldine Ferraro's historic run for the vice presidency.

But Walsh, at Rutgers, tempers high expectations. There's still a long way to go, she said.

"I get very nervous when we start to proclaim all these years as 'years of the women,"' she said. "We set up some notion that we'll solve the problem of women's under-representation in politics in a single year." (The Associated Press August 22, 2002)

USA -- WOMEN ARE HARDWIRED TO EXPERIENCE and recall emotions more readily than men, according to a study announced last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as on CNN's morning show. "The wiring of emotional experience and the coding of that experience into memory is much more tightly integrated in women than in men," according to the study's lead author, psychologist Turhan Canli of the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Perhaps because this statement -- dressed in the language of neuroscience -- confirms long-standing stereotypes about men and women, it was greeted by the press with little skepticism. None of the stories I've seen -- mostly reprints of an Associated Press report -- questioned the basis for Canli's unequivocal declaration of cognitive sexual difference. But it seems rather shaky to me. Canli and his co-authors tested 12 men and 12 women. (I suppose they were "average" men and women who accurately represent the rest of us.) Each subject was presented with pictures of mundane objects, such as bookcases and fireplugs, and of objects expected to evoke strong emotions, such as guns, gravestones, corpses and electric chairs. The subjects were then asked to grade the pictures for emotional intensity. Three weeks later, they were brought back into the lab and asked to recall which pictures they had rated as "extremely emotionally intense." Women reportedly had about a 15 percent higher recall rate. "For pictures that were highly emotional, men recalled around 60 percent and women were about 75 percent," according to Canli. Canli also reported that in brain scans taken while the subjects viewed pictures, "experience and memory is processed in the same location" in women, but not in men. This is how Canli explained the MRI evidence on CNN: "You are looking at a slice of brain tissue, and the red blobs on it indicate regions of activation that are associated with the emotional experience or with the emotional memory. When you look at the women, it's in the same place. . . . When you look at the men, the experience is on the left and the memory is on the right."

I'm no expert on magnetic resonance imaging, but I've read that it's open to interpretation. And somehow I find these red blobs unconvincing as evidence that women are more emotionally retentive than men. You don't have to be a scientist to wonder whether a study suggesting that the emotional memories of 12 women were up to 15 percent more accurate than the emotional memories of 12 men is proof that men and women think differently; you merely need a knowledge of history. Scientific studies "proving" that men are smarter or more analytical and less emotional than women, or that men and women use their brains differently, are periodically trumpeted and more quietly debunked. Consider the conviction of 19th-century scientists, who posited that men were smarter than women because their brains were heavier. In 1880, former U.S. Surgeon General William Hammond asserted that "the brain of a women is inferior in at least 19 different ways to the brain of a man."

How did he know? Scientists hadn't studied the brains of women, as one of my favorite feminists, Helen Hamilton Gardener, pointed out. They were preoccupied with weighing the brains of famous men. Gardener skewered "scientific" theories about male and female brains in her 1893 book Facts and Fictions of Life. Lord Byron's reportedly huge brain weighed 2,238 grams, she acknowledged. But no man's brain weighed nearly as much as the 7,000 gram brain of a large whale. If scientists were right about the connection between brain weight and intelligence, Gardener observed, "Almost any elephant is . . . perhaps an entire medical faculty."

Scientific understanding of the human brain has surely advanced in the last century, but sex stereotypes still have the power to influence research, or at least the presentation of research findings. The press tends to exaggerate and over-generalize findings that suggest natural cognitive differences between the sexes, while downplaying findings that suggest cognitive similarities -- or variabilities having little apparent connection to sex. During the 1980s and 1990s, a spate of stories highlighted some questionable studies that claimed to show natural differences in make and female mathematical aptitude, and to demonstrate the effect of hormonal fluctuations on women's reasoning abilities. One researcher suggested that females take estrogen to improve their SAT scores.

The press paid particular attention to a 1995 study by Yale researchers Bennett and Sally Shaywitz, which purported to show differences in the ways in which men and women use their brains. The Shaywitz study involved 19 men and 19 women who were asked to perform four cognitive tasks involving language and visual-information processing. MRI results showed no differences in brain functions of males and females when performing three of the tasks. But while performing one task (involving rhyming), 11 of 19 women (or 58 percent) reportedly used different parts of their brains than all 19 men. In other words, 100 percent of women performing three tasks and 42 percent of women performing one task apparently used their brains just like men.

How were these findings characterized? "Men and Women Use Brain Differently, Study Discovers," a New York Times headline blared, although it could just as easily have said, "Men and Women Use Brain Similarly." Does sex play a role in cognition? Maybe, maybe not. The press and the public like certainty and affirmation of popular biases. But real science thrives on the capacity for doubt. (The American Prospect September 9, 2002)

USA -- AIDS is increasingly become a woman's disease in Massachusetts. The percentage of women with HIV/AIDS is continuing to rise, a trend public health officials say could worsen if the state fails to boost education and treatment programs.

Communities like Fall River, Leominster, Amherst and Holyoke are experiencing "mini-epidemics," with women accounting for more than half of the cases there, health officials said.

Statewide, the percentage of people with AIDS who are women has increased almost threefold in the past decade, from about 10 percent in 1990 to as high as 30 percent in 2000, according to the Department of Public Health. As of Aug. 1 of this year, there were 13,725 people living with HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts. About 3,862 or about 28 percent, were women compared to about 9,863, or about 72 percent, who were men. HIV is the virus which causes AIDS.

Statewide, the portion of women with HIV/AIDS has increased 10 percent in the past decade, from about 18 percent in 1990 to 28 percent in 2000, according to the Department of Public Health.
As of August 1, there were about 13,725 people living with HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts. About 3,862 or about 28 percent, were women compared to about 9,863, or about 72 percent, who were men. HIV is the virus which causes AIDS.

The majority of women with AIDS contracted the virus through their own intravenous drug use or through sexual contact with a partner who injects drugs. About 36 percent of the women are black, 35 percent are white and 25 percent are Hispanic.

"Women face a double jeopardy from their own primary drug use and secondarily from their partner's drug use, which they may or may not know about," said Jean Maguire, director of the state's AIDS bureau. Massachusetts lawmakers recently cut back funding for AIDS programs as part of effort to rein in spending.

The problem of women and AIDS is especially dire in poorer communities or areas with large immigrant populations, according to Maguire. Some of those communities are experiencing "mini-epidemics" reflected in rates of infection among women nearly double the state average, she said.

The higher numbers have focused more attention on ways to prevent the spread of the disease and to care for women who already have AIDS. Women typically face greater hurdles to getting care, in part because they often spend more time caring for children and other family members and neglect themselves, health care officials said.

Women also have to overcome the ongoing stigma associated with AIDS and are often uninsured or poor, according to Dr. Lisa Hirschhorn, who has run the AIDS program at the Dimock Community Health Center in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston since 1989.

About 45 percent of her patients are women, a number that has increased gradually during the decade, Hirschhorn said. AT first, the women with AIDS who came to the health center died more quickly than the men, she said. Doctors thought the women were physically more vulnerable, but Hirschhorn said the true culprit was the lack of good health care services.

Many women underestimate their risk of infection, she said. "There is still a fair amount of ignorance about who's at risk," she said. "Basically anyone who has unprotected sex is at risk with a partner whose history they don't know."

John Cruz is an outreach worker at the MetroWest Latin American Center in Framingham and has spent the past four years spreading the word about AIDS. Cruz said many women still don't understand the risk of contracting the virus.

"Most of the women are getting infected because of the husbands," Cruz said. "(The husbands) go out, they play around and do drugs with their friends, and they go home and the women are getting infected."

As a result of the budget cuts, the agency no longer offers AIDS testing, he said. Many people used to come for AIDS tests rather than going to private doctors because the clinics tests were confidential, he said.

The key to stemming the disease is education, officials said. That education is particularly important for women of childbearing age to help prevent the spread of the disease to children.
"If you don't talk to them, they are not going to learn anything," Cruz said. "If you take them one by one, they learn." (August 21, 2002, Wednesday, BC cycle)

USA -- It looks like Black women have found a way to resolve the problem with the "shortage" of Black men. Black women have begun to expand their options, within recent years, by dating outside of their race. Statistics show that more Black women are dating White men. Black female/White male marriages went from 27,000 in 1980 to 80,000 by 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The reason for this increase in more Black women dating White men may be attributed to educational attainment, says Renea D. Nichols-Nash, author of Coping With Interracial Dating. "A study revealed that the number of Black women earning degrees increased by 55 percent since the mid '70s, but 20 percent with men," says Nichols-Nash, a journalism professor at Arizona State University. "Women who go to college and graduate want someone with the same educational level or more. Black men just aren't there. That could be one reason why more Black women are dating White men."

Nichols-Nash says that opportunity, environment and availability also play roles in why so many Black women are crossing the color barrier.

"You must look at the pool of men and where you're from. For instance, I live in Phoenix. The Black population is 3 percent. The pool is very small. Then you must take into consideration who you would date. You're competing with those few. When you expand your options, the pool gets bigger. Why limit your options by closing off a whole race. You might miss Mr. Right. Black women need love too. If he's White, he just happens to be White. Deal with that."

Nichols-Nash also says that some Black women date White men because they have no other choice. Black men, for whatever reason, she says, tend to shy away from Black women of status.

"Some men don't perceive certain women as your average woman anymore because of their experience or education," explains Nichols-Nash. "Some Black men will look at you a certain way. They know that you have a lot going on and that they can't play games. Sometimes it's harder to attract Black guys when you have a lot going for yourself."

Oscar-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg found this to be the reason why she dates White guys. Black men, she said, have a hard time dealing with a Black woman with power. Past beaus for her have included White actors Ted Danson and Frank Langella. She's often been criticized because of her high-profile interracial relationships.

"First off, I have dated Black men," she told Newsweek. "But a woman with power is a problem for any man, but particularly a Black man because it's hard for them to get power. I understand that, but I have to have a life, and that means dating the men that want to date me."

The media have played a role in more Black women dating White men, according to Brenda Lane Richardson, author of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, a book that depicts successful interracial relationships.

"A lot of our behavior is shaped by what we see in the media," explains Richardson. "There used to be a time when there would be an African-American movie with an all African-American cast. That's changed. Today you might see an African-American family with White neighbors or family members working with Whites , , , There's so much more mingling that people start to think it's natural. If we see it in the media, people will think this is what the world is like and start to believe it."

In 1981, she began dating Dr. Mark Richardson, a Swedish American. They married in 1984. She says that she wasn't looking to cross the color line when she met her future husband. She asked God to send her someone to love.

"Love happens. It just happens. I was not looking for someone White," she contends. "I asked God to find me someone good for me and my son. I didn't ask God to send me a Black man. You don't ask for particular physical qualities. I wanted someone to love who had a deep faith in God, was kind, had a sense of humor and values similar to mine. Those are the kinds of requests you make. I didn't sit down and say in a letter to God to only send me someone Black. If I had sent that kind of letter it wouldn't have been delivered. You have to ask for love. I didn't come out of an experience where I didn't want to be with a Black man. I wanted to be in love. That's what God gave me. Love comes in many different colors."

Encountering stereotypical thoughts from others has been one thing Richardson has experienced frequently since she wed Dr. Richardson, who teaches graduate students at an Episcopal seminary.

"Just because you fall in love with someone of a different race doesn't mean that you're against an entire race. It doesn't mean that Black women scorn brothers , , , People will assume you wanted someone rich so you married a White man -- as if all White people are rich. It's just like when Black men date White women, people assume the White woman will be ignorant and poor. None of this is true."

It isn't hard to figure out why so many Black women are dating White men says psychotherapist-author Julia A. Boyd.

"White men are asking us out," she chuckles. "We're looking at our options. If someone asks me out, I say 'why not.' More women are willing to broaden their perspective. Most of the time when you're sitting at home and complaining that no one asks you out, it's because you aren't willing to expand your horizons."

Boyd, who authored In the Company of My Sisters and Embracing the Fire, says that another reason more Black women are dating White men is because Black women are beginning to open themselves up to love regardless of its color. "Most of the time we're only looking for men in only one camp. We don't notice who is in the other camp. We're only looking at Black men and complaining. We're not noticing that White men may be noticing us and want to meet us. Don't limit your options based on ethnicity. When you're open, you'll notice that a lot more men are noticing you."

Boyd recognizes that a select group of Black women date White men because they profess to being "fed up" with being hurt by Black men. These women, she says, go to the other side of the street hoping to enter the promised land; they convince themselves that White men won't hurt them and will treat them better than Black men. "Don't hold your breath," warns Boyd. "It's not about color, but about the man. White men can act foolish like Black men. They can all cut up when they want to. If you're jumping the line for that, stay where you are. There are no guarantees. It's more about personality than color."

The bottom line, says Nichols-Nash, when it comes to dating, Black women are exercising their options. "Black men have been doing it for a very long time. It's always in the media. Now we're doing the same thing when it comes to dating." (Jet August 26, 2002)

USA -- Monthly periods come with physical and emotional consequences most women prefer to do without. A recent study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology showed that 91% of women who experienced headaches, cramps, premenstrual symptoms, heavy bleeding or acne during their period, when given the option to extend their oral contraceptive regimen to eliminate or lessen the frequency of menstruation, chose to make the change. Of those who attempted the extended regimen and continued it, 94% said their quality of life greatly improved or improved as a result.

"This study is important because it is the first long-term study of a large series of patients to evaluate acceptance and long-term continuation rates of altering the 21/7 day birth control pill regimen," said Patricia Sulak, MD, professor, department of obstetrics/gynecology, Texas A & M University System Health Science Center College of Medicine, Scott &  White, one of the nation's largest integrated healthcare delivery systems located in central Texas, and lead author of the study. "The remarkable thing isn't just how eager women were to change the way in which they took their birth control pill to decrease their periods, it's also how easily they embraced the change. A large number of women chose to continue the extended regimen of real pills for long periods of time and indicated that the quality of their lives greatly improved," Sulak added.

While menstruation is often viewed as natural, women today get their periods much more often than their predecessors due to early onset of menstruation, later menopause, and decreased time spent breastfeeding and bearing children. As a result, menstrual disorders are the most common gynecologic complaint in the U.S., affecting approximately 2.5 million American women.

This retrospective study looked at women who, over the course of 7 years, were counseled by Dr. Sulak to alter the way in which they were taking their monophasic 30-35 mcg birth control pill to decrease the unwanted effects associated with their period - such as migraine headaches, cramps, or PMS.

Rather than taking the pill for 21 days and then taking a week off or a placebo pill for 7 days (causing a monthly period due to hormone withdrawal - the way most birth control pills are currently marketed), women were given the option to extend the number of days they took the real hormone-containing pills. Women could choose to take the hormone-containing pills for 6, 9, or 12 weeks or until their body naturally developed breakthrough bleeding, stopping for 3-7 days when this happened, and then resuming the active pill again.

"We have a lot of data on women who take the pill on a 21/7 day schedule. We were surprised to learn that women who extend their active oral contraceptive (OC) pills not only like the result, they also end up staying on the birth control pill for many years, often much longer than the average OC oral contraceptive user," said Dr. Sulak.

This new study could have positive implications for women's health overall since taking the birth control pill decreases a woman's risk of ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, and endometriosis, as well as many other serious medical conditions. In addition, when women get their period less often, they also get fewer headaches, cramps, mood swings, and other sometimes severe health symptoms that accompany menstruation.

"No medical reasons have been proven-either for the function of the product or as a benefit to women-for maintaining the monthly period associated with oral contraceptives," said Freedolph Anderson, MD, director of clinical research in The Technology Development Center at The Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia and a clinical investigator for Seasonale. "This study is evidence that women are looking for a better answer than the current 21/7 day pill regimen. Women deserve an option that lessens the frequency of troublesome monthly periods." This article was prepared by Women's Health Weekly editors from staff and other reports.( Women's Health Weekly August 22, 2002)

USA -- To the question - "Is this any way to treat a woman?" - Kimberly Wright responds with an emphatic yes. "We aren't sitting around," she says, "and marinating in boredom." Instead of being behind bars 24 hours a day, Wright and other inmates at the North Piedmont Correctional Center for Women in Lexington toil on an all-female convict work gang.

Through the ages, prison road gangs have been celebrated and mourned in songs, stories and movies, the latest being, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" But the prisoners always have been men. A program begun during former Gov. Jim Hunt's administration sends male and female inmates out on separate work details. They do chores for cities, towns, counties, state and nonprofit organizations.

Fountain Correctional Center for Women in Rocky Mount dispatched the first crews in the mid-1990s. Crews began going out in 2000 from North Piedmont Correctional Center for Women, which opened in 1997 as the area's first and only women's prison and the sixth in the state. One such crew recently painted a county office building in downtown Greensboro.

Oh Sister, where art thou?

On this day, she's on Business 40 in Forsyth County, just across the Guilford County line. Wright and the rest of the crew - ages 22 to 41, imprisoned for crimes ranging from forgery to assault - fill bags with litter picked up in the weeds of the median and along the shoulders. The work is more back-aching than back-breaking.

Cars and 18-wheelers zip by at 70 mph. The trucks leave a wake strong enough to knock a hat off. Most of the women wear their green prison-issue hats backward, some with hair tucked inside.
Some truckers can't resist a honk when they realize the people in baggy prison work clothes are women. Occasionally, a catcall gets shouted.

Temperatures climb toward 90. The blue two-piece work clothes and reflective vests, with "INMATE" in big letters, don't make it any cooler. If temperatures reach 95, the women earn sentence-reducing "merit time" for working. The inmates already have spotted a few rats scurrying about in the high grass. Every day the crew comes upon road kill: dogs, raccoons, deer, snakes. Sometimes, says a grimacing Wright, the snakes aren't dead.

The women find - and turn in - objects of temptation: knives, drugs and alcohol that motorists toss out, probably to escape police detection. Twice, the women have found guns. Wright, a 37-year-old Raleigh mother of two serving nine months for breaking and entering, says litter pick-up beats prison walls, but "I don't like it. It gets kind of hectic out here. It gets real hot."

She'd rather be painting, which is what the gang did the previous week in Winston-Salem. Paint spatters remain on their work clothes and shoes. The women say they like gardening and landscaping details, too. They'll do that this week in Rowan County.

The women travel in a white van, driven by guard Kristie Noah, with a trailer hitched to it carrying equipment, a blue portable john and a water cooler. Because traffic noise overwhelms human voices, Noah signals with her hands for the crew to take a break or to come back to the van for a lunch of ham and cheese or bologna sandwiches, water and, say the women, a "stale" muffin.

Forget the image of the gun-toting, tobacco-spitting, harassing prison guards of movie lore. Noah doesn't carry a weapon and seems sensitive to feelings. She says she has seen women with college degrees feel disgraced at being in public view.

"I try to tell them to just work hard and maybe tomorrow will be a better day," she says. Wright, a medical technician before entering prison, says she felt shame at first but got over it. She says the crews do work that has meaning and worth. "We have a chance to make a difference. We like to be appreciated. It's neat when we finish a job and the people thank us and say they hope they can get us back again."

Taji Bullard of Winston-Salem, 31, three months into a six- to eight-month sentence for forgery, says, "I have never felt any shame about being out here. I just look at it as something that I have to do right now at this point in my life."

Sgt. Larry Gilley, in charge of men's and women's prison crews in the Piedmont, says the crews save local governments and nonprofits money by painting office and school buildings, and doing other tasks. Agencies who benefit tell him the male crews generally work faster but that the women "pay more attention to detail."

Gilley says some women have "never had a rake in their hands" or done any kind of work. Being on a work crew, he says, teaches them a basic skill and gets them in the habit of going to work each day. This will help them once they return to the outside.

Gilley and officer Noah say discipline rarely becomes a problem with the women, who must be within five years of release or parole to go on work details. None has ever tried to escape. Wright and Bullard say the urge to run never creeps into their minds. It would only lead to more time in prison.

In a few instances, women have stopped working while on highway details, citing heat and traffic. They're sent to "segregation," a form of solitary confinement. Tensions occasionally rise when the weary women return to the prison at the end of a day. They arrive about the same time as male work gangs at a neighboring prison. Wright and Bullard say the men enter their prison after a pat down.

"This is very aggravating to us," Wright says, "because we get strip-searched." Gilley, however, says the men get strip-searched on a random basis. He says it's up to the superintendent of each prison to set policy about security procedures. It varies from unit to unit.

For Wright, spirits are rising. Her divorce was made final last Wednesday, and she'll get out of prison Thursday. She'll be reunited with her children, ages 9 and 7. Wright hopes to resume medical work and make more than the 70 cents a day she earns on the prison work gang.
She knows of one lesson she'll take home. "My kids used to throw trash out the window - no more!" she declares. "If I see anyone throwing trash, I'm making a citizen's arrest." (News & Record (Greensboro, NC) August 21, 2002)

UN -- Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women adopts report, concludes exceptional session; Recommendations made on situations in Armenia, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Argentina, Barbados, Yemen, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Greece, Hungary

At the conclusion of its three-week exceptional session, having considered reports of 11 States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention's monitoring body made recommendations for the advancement of women in Armenia, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Argentina, Barbados, Yemen, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Greece and Hungary (report to be issued at a later date).

Opinions and considerations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) - the only international treaty body that deals exclusively with women's rights - are to be included in its final report for the exceptional session (from 5 to 23 August), which was adopted today. For background information on the exceptional session and the Committee, see press release WOM/1350 of 1 August.

In her concluding remarks, Caroline Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, congratulated the Committee on its outstanding achievements during the current session. There was no longer a backlog of reports of States parties awaiting review. She was convinced that the General Assembly would commend the Committee and see the progress it had made as ample justification of its decision to authorize an exceptional session. The session had provided the Committee with an opportunity to make significant improvements in its conduct of constructive dialogue with States parties, she said. States parties generally welcomed the Committee's innovations concerning working methods, such as the decisions made at an informal seminar held in Lund at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in April 2002. The Committee would undoubtedly build on innovations with a view to ensuring that report consideration provided the best possible framework for accelerating the Convention's domestic implementation.

Among the important events during the session was a seminar on article 4.1 of the Convention on special temporary measures to accelerate the achievement of equality between women and men, she added. That seminar had revealed the complexity of article 4.1, the subject of one of the future general recommendations of the Committee. The period until the twenty-eighth session of the Committee would be a busy time for the Division for the Advancement of Women. In addition to several meetings and work related to the Assembly's consideration of issues such as trafficking and violence against women, the Division was also convening two CEDAW-related activities at the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Bangkok.

The exceptional session had been exceptional in many ways, she said. The Committee's Chairperson, Charlotte Abaka of Ghana, and former Chairperson Ivanka Corti of Italy were leaving the Committee after many years. Both had been powerful forces in raising the Committee's influence in the United Nations and around the world. She also thanked experts Emna Aouij of Tunisia and Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini of South Africa who were also leaving. She expressed her appreciation to the Chief of the Women's Rights Section, Jane Connors, who would be taking up the position of Senior Human Rights Officer in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. All efforts would be made to ensure that the transition period was smooth. She also conveyed the congratulations of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, Angela E.V. King, who had been following the meeting electronically.

At the end of her two-year term, Committee Chairperson Charlotte Abaka summarized the Committee's work during that time. She noted that the Committee was emphasizing human rights education and was also targeting other professionals such as health care providers, "educationists", those in the judiciary and legal practitioners. The adoption of recommendations at the Inter-Committee meeting and at the meeting in Lund would enhance the Committee's work, help implement the Convention and facilitate recommendations for the concluding comments.

Elaboration of general recommendations was an important aspect of the Committee's work, she continued. The Committee could consider collaborating with relevant United Nations agencies to publish the articles on women's health that were a part of the general recommendations on violence against women. It could take the form of a booklet similar to the "Equality Passport" published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It could be part of the Committee's preparations for the Assembly's commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention to be held in 2004.

Many of the experts then took the floor to express their personal appreciation for their contributions of the outgoing Committee and Secretariat members.( M2 PRESSWIRE August 26, 2002)

UGANDA -- There is only a loud silence from women rights groups in Africa, including Uganda. Amina Lawal is a breast-feeding young mother in Nigeria. She will be buried to the neck and stoned to death as soon as she weans her eight-months-old daughter. Amina's "crime" is that she gave birth out of wedlock. Islamic courts found her guilty of "adultery" under the Sharia law that applies in some Nigerian states. Amina was sentenced to die by stoning.

A higher Islamic court upheld the sentence on Monday. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is keeping a cowardly silence but his chief adviser on women's affairs Titi Ajanaku has described Amina's sentence as a breach of human rights law, citing the Sharia's institutional prejudice against women.

"It is clear that Sharia law is prejudiced against women, to punish them unjustifiably for an action between two parties," Ajanaku said yesterday. The Sharia law on adultery requires several witnesses of good standing to convict a man, but some Islamic courts accept an unmarried woman's pregnancy as proof of guilt.

Ajanaku also argues that murdering Amina would violate Nigeria's obligations in the UN Charter on Human Rights and the African Charter on Human Rights. Nigeria's junior justice minister Musa Elayo says Amina still has three higher courts to appeal to. The US Department however wants the Nigerian authorities to ensure Amina gets a "fair hearing" during the appeal.

The European Union simply wants the Nigerian authorities to overturn the sentence. Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh says she is greatly dismayed that a woman could be sentenced to stoning in 2002! Respected Nigerian writer and academic Wole Soyinka was swift and strong in his condemnation.

Soyinka argues that the poor and voiceless (including women like Amina) are being used as pawns by "cynical people" playing politics with religion in an attempt to create a political crisis - because of current disgruntlement with Obasanjo's government.

Soyinka dismisses the Islamic court's ruling as a "very idiosyncratic interpretation of the Sharia". In short, it is an injustice and a violation of the women's rights that must be condemned and fought by all women rights activists or whoever claims to stand for human rights in general.

Sadly, there is only a loud silence from women rights groups in Africa, including Uganda - which has some of the most vocal feminists and self-proclaimed women rights activists. Haven't many of the activists in Uganda themselves had children out of wedlock? So why not stand to be counted with Amina who has been condemned to death for exercising a choice so many Ugandan women take for granted?

Why are we not seeing Mrs Miria Matembe, Dr. J. Kwesiga and the others who so often preach "women emancipation" leading us to picket at the Nigerian High Commission in Kampala to force President Obasanjo's government to end such blatant abuse of women in his country?

Also, compare the silence of Ugandan and other African women activists to the exaggerated protests they made in February 1999 over that rape-and-jeans affair in Italy. Italian Supreme Court judge Gennaro Tridico had just sparked international outrage when he overturned a judgement against one Carmine Cristiano who allegedly raped his 18-year-old pupil. A lower court in Potenza had sentenced the driving instructor to 34 months in jail. But the defence appealed, arguing that "Rosa" had consented to sex, which she strongly denied.

The Supreme Court overturned the sentence and ruled that the woman's tight blue jeans made it impossible to rape her without her co-operation in removing them. The ruling horrified the world. Even in Uganda -- where we are generally dismissed for our cowardly and passive activism -- outraged (mainly women) protesters wore jeans and took to the streets. None of the protesters would even listen to the judge's explanation that the overall ruling had been taken out of context. The judge had argued that the jeans only further confirmed that the proof of violence had been "very dubious".

While no sane person should ever condone the crime of rape, I was not that excited by the so-called global "jeans protest". Back then, I was rather cynical of overzealous African women rights groups, especially those in Uganda. Granted a woman's rights had been violated, but why were these (mostly Black) African women's groups that excited? Was it out of genuine concern for human rights and justice for the world's women, or had they joined the bandwagon simply because a western [and white] woman was the victim?

Why don't such enthusiastic groups ever demonstrate similar outrage against the daily injustices visited upon fellow women and other underprivileged groups in their own immediate communities or institutions in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa?

Would the womenfolk across America, Europe and as far as Australia who protested the Italian judge's ruling have expressed similar outrage if the injustice had been against a Black (African) woman like Amina, for example? In short, is the women's movement in Africa fake - only pandering to western women's agendas and donor interests; that in part also fulfils the selfish interests of local elite women activists?

Those questions disturbed me a lot then, but remained largely unanswered. This week I finally got the long answers. The answers lie in the African women groups' silence on Amina Lawal's fate.
(August 22, 2002 Thursday The Monitor)

AUSTRALIA -- A hundred years after women in NSW won the right to vote, they are still a vulnerable minority, writes Meredith Burgmann. IT IS quite strange to be organising the celebrations for the centenary of NSW women winning the vote at the same time as the downfall of three senior women politicians. Natasha Stott Despoja, Margaret Reid and Louise Asher (deputy leader of the Liberal Party in Victoria) have all hit the skids over the past week. Has something gone wrong for women?

The first point is that it has never gone right for women. Although we have had the vote for 100 years in NSW, we have still only managed to elect 66 women into the NSW parliament in that time. In the same time we have elected 2500 men.

In fact it was 1983 before NSW elected a woman Jeanette McHugh to federal parliament. Eternal vigilance is still necessary. When I first arrived in the Legislative Council in 1991, 15 of the 45 members were women. However, we stopped whingeing, took our eye off the ball, and within a few years that number had fallen to nine.

Why, despite some effort by the parties, are women still so under-represented? One obvious reason is the events of the last few days. How many young women watching the assassination of Stott Despoja will be drawn to fulfil their idealism via a parliamentary career? Parliamentary politics is "aggro" and it is especially so for women. Why so?

My theory is that the parliamentary press galleries desperately desire colour and movement. Bald, middle-aged men with gold-rimmed glasses are not an exciting subject for news reports. Women provide colour and movement, and therefore we may receive disproportionate amounts of press coverage. This can be helpful in the early stages but very difficult later on.

Women politicians are built up as saviours or sex goddesses. It is arguable that the media created Bronwyn, Pauline, Natasha and Cheryl. These women profited from excessive media coverage to begin with, but once the media discovered that they were not perfect, a blood lust occurred and they were torn to shreds. Nothing is nastier to see than a press gallery in a shark-like feeding frenzy. Despite her terrific press coverage for many years, I know that Stott Despoja was nervous about her celebrity status. I watch young women politicians and their press coverage with great anxiety, because you can almost predict that one mistake and the feeding frenzy will start.

I often feel ambivalent about encouraging young women into parliamentary politics anyway. Despite my political differences with Kerry Chikarovski I admired her pure courage waking up every morning, picking up the paper and seeing yourself obliterated in the press is something that destroys the soul. Why should I encourage young women to involve themselves in a life which might include this fate?

Only when there are enough women in parliament for it not to be considered unusual or different will women escape this intense media scrutiny. Let's hope that women hit that critical mass sooner rather than later. (Sydney Morning Herald August 27, 2002)

USA -- If one had to pick the most disappointing case of unrealized potential in the US Senate, it might just be Hillary Rodham Clinton. no doubt Senator Clinton is doing exactly what the more parochial of her New York constituents want: diligently attending to the needs of the empire state. And yet, as one of the most famous women in the world, she could be an instrumental figure in the international struggle for women's rights.

Certainly one of her best moments as first lady came in September 1995, when she went to Beijing and delivered a clear and bracing message: "Human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, once and for all." But as a senator Clinton has been strangely muted - and at a time when we need just that sort of moral clarity focused on the Islamic lands of the Middle East and Africa. In a region where human rights have gained little foothold, women are particularly oppressed. As Ibn Warraq details in "Why I Am Not A Muslim," the treatment of women as inferiors has long been a religiously justified occurrence in Muslim society.

The most barbaric manifestation of that surely comes in the punishments handed down under the Koranic law, or Shariah, that holds particularly stern and pitiless sway in parts of Pakistan, Nigeria, Iran, Sudan, and Yemen.

Statistics can be hard to come by from behind the Islamic curtain, but it's known that in Iran, where public executions and floggings are on the upswing, a number of women have been stoned to death in recent years. Last year, according to the State Department, at least three were executed that way, one for appearing in a pornographic movie. In the last few years, Amnesty International has highlighted the fates of another five women stoned to death for adultery or prostitution.

On Monday in Nigeria, meanwhile, an Islamic high court upheld the stoning sentence of a 30-year-old single mother. Her crime? Sex outside marriage. (A further legal appeal is planned.   Noncapital punishments are also dismayingly inhumane. In one instance, a 17-year-old unmarried mother in Nigeria was subjected to 100 lashes for fornication. "It is something we hear about on a regular basis," Widney Brown, advocacy director in the women's rights division of Human Rights Watch, says of that sort of punishment. "To a certain extent it is so common it doesn't get a lot of press coverage."

The sheer brutality of other incidents has thrust them into the headlines recently. Last month the world recoiled in horror over news stories from Pakistan, where a tribal council ordered the gang rape of an 18-year-old woman after trumped-up accusations that her 11-year-old brother had been having a sexual relationship with a woman from a higher tribe.

Even worse than revenge rape are the honor killings that are tragically routine occurrences in some countries of the region. Only lightly punished under the law, those killings see hundreds, if not thousands, of women murdered annually because their families or husbands suspect them of premarital sex, adultery, or simply immodest behavior thought to reflect poorly on relatives.

In one case, according to a Los Angeles Times account, an Egyptian father killed his daughter because she had eloped with a man he didn't approve of, then cut off her head and paraded it down a Cairo street. "Now the family has regained its honor," he boasted.

If the horrific occurs far too often, the consignment of women to the condition of controlled chattel at worst, third-class citizenship at best, is so common as to be the norm in some Islamic lands. In Saudi Arabia, one of the leading Arab countries, women are forbidden to drive or vote. They cannot travel, work, or go to school without a male guardian's permission. She who walks unattended risks being beaten by the same religious police who recently forced schoolgirls back toward a burning building rather than have them evacuate without head scarves.

The Arab Human Development Report released in early July by the United Nations Development Program made, in a few understated sentences, a stark point about the status of women in the region: "Utilization of Arab women's capabilities through political and economic participation remains the lowest in the world in quantitative terms. . . . One in every two Arab women can neither read nor write."

Put more bluntly, the plight of women in the region is an abomination. Who better than Hillary Clinton to help highlight that outrage?

Scot Lehigh's e-mail address is [email protected] Join Scot today for a live online chat at noon on The Boston Globe August 21, 2002)

USA -- As you read this, a woman is pushing the wheelchair of her Parkinson's-afflicted father, or injecting insulin into her diabetic daughter's thigh, or bathing her mother, who has Alzheimer's disease. Women know that health and disease are their issues, and the freedom to pursue groundbreaking research is a feminist cause.

A year ago, President Bush approved extremely limited federal funding for some of the most promising research in medical history - research that uses stem cells taken from days-old embryos. But opponents of research are still trying to criminalize some of the newest work. And a small number of feminists have joined their efforts, calling for a halt to work known as "research cloning." They do not speak for most women. This basic science is not just another way to patch damaged organs. Remove the nucleus from a donated egg and replace it with the nucleus of a body cell from someone with a genetic disease. Shock this egg so that it begins to divide. In a few short days, derive genetically identical stem cells that will grow into laboratory sample tissue of the diseased organs. Now you can learn how the genetic mutation causes illness and test drugs to cure it.

No other form of stem cell research can be used for this work. That is why mainstream feminist groups, such as the National Women's Law Center, the Society for the Advancement of Women's Health, and the National Partnership for Women and Families have joined patients, doctors, theologians, ethicists and scientists who are fighting to keep the research legal.

This research will take the donation of women's eggs. But egg donation will be voluntary and safe because of strong federal regulations and independent monitoring to minimize injury, coercion of donors or misuse of the research for reproductive or eugenic purposes. Although we can support proposals to expand safeguards, no one should forget that we already have a well-tested system of protections. Halting research while awaiting additional rules would be tantamount to banning the research.

Most feminists are sensitive to those who view this research as vulnerable to the occasional excesses associated with efforts by couples undergoing in vitro fertilization to buy "Ivy League" eggs. But unlike infertility treatments, regulations prevent such practices here. To stop this research under the guise of "protecting" women is to fall prey to an old trap: seeing women solely as egg bearers and not as adults who can be trusted to decide to donate eggs to help science.

For some, research cloning is caught up in a deeper debate about human control over nature, as if we could count on nature for moral direction. But nature is not only burbling streams; it also is the cruelty of disease. And "unnatural" things are not all bad or dangerous. Otherwise, we might as well return to the days when we were told to fear contraception and education, lest it cause us to become "unnatural" women and leave us barren.

Still others worry that this research advances society inexorably toward the darkest excesses of human eugenics. But research cloning never results in pregnancy or birth; it is purely laboratory work.

* The women's health movement is justifiably proud of its record of calling attention to the dilemmas, excesses and occasional abuses made possible by technological innovation, and of its help in bringing about protection to safeguard this cloning research.

Calls for responsible science and medicine should not be confused with hostility to well-regulated, innovative research and new hope for cures. Feminists can identify their opponents, and they are not the ones in the white coats. (Capital Times (Madison, WI) August 21, 2002)

USA -- Demonstrators rallied in four California cities Tuesday to protest Gov. Gray Davis' rejection of parole for many battered women who killed their abusers. The protesters accused the governor of playing politics with the lives of the inmates, who have been judged rehabilitated and approved for release by the state parole board, whose members were appointed by Davis.

"It's a travesty of justice," said Diana Block, who took part in the Sacramento rally and represents the California Coalition for Battered Women in Prison. "Any objective person who looked at these women's records would agree they deserve to be freed." Critics say Davis, who is running for reelection, refuses to release eligible convicts because he fears that a parolee might commit a new crime and wind up in a campaign ad against him.

But Byron Tucker, Davis' press secretary, disputed that characterization, saying the governor acts with public safety--not politics--in mind. "The governor evaluates each case individually and on its merits," Tucker said. "He gives all of these cases a painstaking review. Some of them meet his criteria, and some of these people are not deserving of parole."

Shortly after taking office, Davis seemed to signal his intention with regard to parole for convicted murderers, saying: "If you take someone else's life, forget it." His staff insists that the statement was political hyperbole. But critics say the governor's record proves he meant what he said.

Since Davis took office, the state Board of Prison Terms has recommended freedom for 123 convicted murderers. Davis has approved parole for two--both of them battered women imprisoned for killing their abusers. He has rejected parole for nine other women who the board concluded committed their crimes because they were being battered. That overall record makes Davis, a Democrat, far less forgiving than his GOP predecessor, Pete Wilson. In Wilson's final three years in office, he allowed more than two dozen convicted murderers to go free on parole.

Tuesday's rallies reflect the criticism that Davis has faced on a number of fronts regarding his parole decisions--especially those that involve battered women. The Legislature's women's caucus, for example, has become increasingly active on the issue, lobbying Davis on behalf of several women whose cases were before him. Pressure is coming from the courts as well. In a string of decisions upholding inmates' legal challenges, judges have rebuked Davis, suggesting that he follows a blanket, illegal policy against parole rather than assessing the facts of each case.

Two cases, both involving Los Angeles-area men serving terms for second-degree murder, are before the state Supreme Court. Oral arguments in those cases, which may decide the extent of the governor's authority over parole, is expected next month. In addition to Sacramento, rallies were held in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. The largest was in San Francisco, where about 100 people--including relatives of incarcerated women--gave speeches and marched with signs on a downtown sidewalk.

In Los Angeles, about 60 protesters paraded on Spring Street near the state office building for an hour before a small delegation went inside to meet with the governor's staff. Those demonstrators, who delivered hundreds of letters urging Davis to free the battered women, included Rose Ann Parker, one of the two convicted killers the governor has released.

In freeing Parker, Davis concluded that she acted out of fear for her life and was a victim of battered women's syndrome when she killed her ex-boyfriend in 1986. The other woman cleared for parole by the governor was Cheryl Sellers. Davis said that although she committed a grave crime when she killed her husband as he lay in bed one night in 1983, she acted in reaction to abuse and threats.

Organizers of the rallies said there are dozens of other female prisoners were victims of abuse before committing their crimes. Earlier this month, Davis rejected parole for two women--Mary Ramp and Flozelle Woodmore--who had been found to be victims of battered women's syndrome and judged deserving of release by the parole board.

One prisoner deserving freedom, protesters say, is Henrietta Briones, 42, who killed her abusive boyfriend in 1986. The parole board found her to be a victim of battered women's syndrome and approved her release. But Davis reversed that decision earlier this year, saying she remained a threat to society. (Los Angeles Times August 21, 2002)

BEIJING -- China's women prisoners are learning to get in touch with their femininity as part of their rehabilitation. "They are prisoners, but women too," says Huang Qinghua, a warden in a women's jail on the southern outskirts of Beijing. With more than a dozen years experience, Huang knows that prisoners can lose their freedom, but not their female nature. "They are sensitive, but in many cases their worries and tensions can be appeased by an understanding heart and small comforts," says the warden.

The prison's "soft" appearance includes a flower garden, a green area and a fountain pool in front of the complex. I had imagined a prison life to be shackled in a stinking cell, " says Xu Ying (an alias), who was sentenced to 15 years for selling drugs three years ago.

That misconception was changed when she entered the prison, but she was still overcome by depression at the loss of her freedom. However, the photo of her mother consoles her every morning as she gets up and waters two evergreen potted plants at the start of each day.

"The prison allows us to choose a photo of our family and put it in a picture frame," says the inmate in her 20s. The dormitory walls are painted blue and the windows and doors are all decorated with red paper-cuttings, which remind prisoners of Spring Festival in February. Plastic firecrackers hanging from the corridor walls add a more lively air.

"Beautiful things awaken a prisoner's sense of responsibility and a more caring attitude," says Huang. The crime rate for women is much lower than that of men. Less than five percent of prisoners in China are women, living in 20 jails across the country. Huang says that women are more likely to feel pressure with regard to human relationships than men, and more concerned with personal hygiene. Separate administration of  women and men prisoners is key to alleviating women's psychological pressure.

According to Chinese law, women prisoners can be released on parole during pregnancy and lactation. Women's prisons in China are all staffed with gynecologists to provide medical care.
Despite personal differences, what most prisoners need most is to release emotional tension. To address this need, nearly every prison across China has designated a "Catharsis Day" to help prisoners relieve tension and anxiety.

In this women's prison, Catharsis Day falls every Thursday. On this day, prisoners are allowed to engage in disco dance, sing Karaoke, play table tennis and enjoy other forms of  entertainment.
Xu Ying's favorite relaxation technique is listening to the ballet music of Swan Lake. "It is the most comforting pleasure in boring prison life." Model prisoners like Xu are rewarded with more opportunities for leisurely family reunions. Xu has been allowed to have one dinner per month in prison with her family.

This type of psychological rehabilitation usually yields good results. Luo Dahua, a criminal psychologist with the China University of Science and Law, says that this type of emotional rehabilitation has become an effective psychological treatment for prisoners in China following experimentation with labor, ideological and educational rehabilitation.

Most women's prisons in China have set up psychological record archives and opened psychological clinics where prisoners can seek psychological help. The Beijing prison system is lobbying for legislation that would require that all psychological counselors working in prisons to have professional licenses. (XINHUA GENERAL NEWS SERVICE August 24, 2002)

UGANDA -- About one third of the married women in Uganda are in polygamous marriages, according to the 2001 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey report which was released this year. And, the report indicates that polygamy is increasing.

As part of a broader countrywide survey married women were asked whether they had co-wives, and 32.2% said yes, 66.3% said no, while 0.5% said they did not know. This represents a slight increase from 1995, when a similar survey found that 30.0% of the married women were in polygamous marriages. The demographic survey found out that of the women in polygamous marriages, two thirds have only one co-wife while one third had two or more. Polygamy was slightly more common in towns than in villages. Also, educated women were slightly less likely to engage in polygamy, compared to women who have never been to school.

However, women with secondary or tertiary education were just as likely as their counterparts who stopped in primary school, to be in polygamy. All together 31.5% of women with secondary or tertiary education were in polygamous marriages. The figure for those with primary education was 32.0% and for those who had no education at all, 34.8%.

Polygamy was most common in northern Uganda, followed by the central, eastern and western parts of the country. The difference among the regions was narrow except western Uganda, which had a clearly lower prevalence of polygamy. At a closer look, polygamous marriages involving three or more women were more common in central Uganda than in other regions.

The report states that polygamy increases with age. In the 15 to 19 age group, 79% of the married women did not share husbands. But this declined to 60% in the 45 to 49 age group. The 1995 report revealed that polygamy was more common among educated men while the reverse was true for women. However, the 2001 report did not present the distribution of polygamy among men.

The state minister for gender, Sam Bitangaro, is totally surprised. With increased awareness about AIDS and the campaign for smaller families, he would expect polygamy to reduce. He discourages men from marrying more than one wife. "I would like to think that over the years the level of education and enlightenment has gone up, so the level of polygamy should proportionally come down," he says. Reverand Jackson Turyagenda of the Church of Uganda, says sex has been de-mystified and many people do not feel guilty to take on more than one sexual partner. He says people have become relaxed on the Church family life education. "Some of these things happen accidentally. Somebody picks up a girl and eventually she becomes part of his life," he adds.

Turyagenda also says as the economy improves, more men become polygamous because they can afford to sustain more than one wife. "Maybe we are not charging bride price so it becomes cheap to marry," he adds. But Dr. Edward Kirumira, head of the department of sociology, Makerere University, says it is more to do with social insecurity.

He says that because Uganda does not have a good social security system, many women look for social support in marriage, even if it means becoming a second wife or getting trapped in a polygamous marriage as a first wife. "It doesn't really surprise me that polygamy is increasing," he says. "In a way women are looking at that as a way of possible social support in a situation where there seems to be no alternative."

Lydia Wanyoto Mutende, a member the East African parliament, says because women are more than men yet society puts them under pressure to marry, she is not surprised that polygamy is increasing. She says society does not respect unmarried women. But she adds that the figure might be higher this time simply because women are becoming more open and are more prepared to declare that they are in polygamous marriages.

She says despite what religious leaders say, polygamy is a reality and "the faster we accept it the better." She says with laws like the Domestic Relations Bill and the Land Act, women in polygamous marriages who do not come out in the open might be left behind. For instance, she says, a second wife who has children should be entitled to the husband's property.

But she says this might not be possible if they do not come out in the open right from the time of debating laws.

Whatever side of the argument one takes, it remains a fact that no woman likes to share a husband with another. Just like no man would want to share a wife. (August 20, 2002 New Vision)

NIGERIA -- The tension in the Ilaje area of Ondo may have worsened as unconfirmed reports yesterday claimed that four of the women who invaded the production platforms at Ewam and Isan oil fields and the Opuekeba flow station, had been killed.

The death reportedly occurred during a clash between the women and the security personnel attached to the Chevron Texaco oil company. Two of the protesters, one pregnant, were also claimed by their spokesperson, Mr Taiwo Irinyemi, to have been abducted by the security operatives while six others are now receiving treatment at the general hospital, Igbokoda, HQ of the council.

However, a statement yesterday evening, signed by the general manager, government and public affairs of Chevron, Sola Omole, declared as totally false, reports that four persons were killed or missing. "Enquiries received this evening to the effect that four of the people have gone missing or been killed is totally false and without any foundation whatsoever," the statement said.

The confrontation was sequel to the women's refusal to leave the facilities believed to have a total production capacity of 350,000 barrels per day, until the oil giant carried out an "ecological restoration" of the polluted environment and abide by their "charter of demands".

Irinyemi in a statement issued yesterday at Igbokoda, said "Ilaje women protested and occupied Opuekeba Flow Station, Ewan field and Isan field in Ugbo kingdom of Ilaje Local Government area of Ondo State, but instead of dialoguing with them, Chevron Texaco Nigeria Limited attacked them by hired armed mobile policemen by pouring hot water on the women; flogged them with horse tail, capsized their boats and their out-board engines... " He also said the women "were fired at by policemen".

"While some survived and are now receiving treatment at the general hospital, Igbokoda, four are still missing and two are being detained at Opuekeba by Chevron. The method was employed by Chevron in 1995 when over 200 houses were burnt down at Ojumole by a team of soldiers and mobile police hired by the company."

The women specifically accused the oil company of "ceaselessly digging artificial canals all over its host communities in Ugbo Kingdom without proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) thereby, opening up their area to inflow of the ocean into their fresh water.

"Sea water enters into the originally fresh water environment through these canals thus causing serious ecological problems. The sea water influx has resulted in serious vegetation damage. Our fishermen and women can no longer catch enough fish to earn a living. Our farmlands, fishponds and waterways are polluted or contaminated by oil spills as a result of prolonged exploitation by Chevron and other oil companies".

While appealing to "the Nigerian government and the American head office of the oil company through their embassy in Nigeria", the women gave a seven-day ultimatum to chevron to "either produce the missing and the abducted women or face the full wrath of llaje womanhood."
According to them "we view the attitude of Chevron Texaco as deliberately provocative and capable of degenerating into a bigger conflict of unimaginable dimensions between the company and her Ilaje women host communities."

They also claimed that the ultimatum should take into consideration the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the womenfolk and the company. This should include the acceptance of a "charter of demands," already presented to the company.

Already, the traditional institution and community leaders in the area have been holding meetings with the aggrieved women and the youths to defuse the tension. When The Guardian visited Igbokoda yesterday morning, a peace meeting, summoned at the instance of the paramount ruler of the area, the Olugbo of Ugbo, Oba Adebanjo Mafimisebi, was being presided over by Chief Fola Iwatan, Chairman of Ugbo Kingdom Central organization.

Although the meeting was held behind closed door, at the town's civic centre, sources disclosed that the leaders appealed to the "Gwama boys" who had vowed to search out the missing women, to exercise restraint. Iwatan, in company of Olasehinde Mesogboriwon, chairman of the oil-producing communities, later called on both the Ondo State and Federal Government to appeal to Chevron to stop its "hopeless divide-and-rule tactic on the Ilaje people to avoid another Ogoni situation". Iwatan who was formerly a commissioner representing Ondo State on the board of the Oil Mineral Producing Area Development Commission (OMPADEC), said the appeal became necessary in view of a statement credited to some officials of Chevron, that some communities had been pacified.

At the Igbokoda General Hospital where the injured women were receiving treatment, 60-year-old Mrs Tomas Oyenyen said that four of the boats used by the women to reach the flow station, were seized while the paddles were used to beat them. Other women at the intensive care unit of the hospital were Mesogboriwon Raye, Bamijoko Ibidun, Odudu Stella, Akinbale Roseline, Odudu Emita and Ifeju Mesogborwon, who claimed to have suffered a miscarriage during the encounter.

Although the State Police Commissioner, Sabastine Hemjirika confirmed the women's occupation of the platforms in a telephone interview with The Guardian yesterday, he said he had not been briefed on the latest development by his men. According to him, "the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) at Igbokoda has not briefed me on the matter. I have not even received a radio message. But whatever the case, I know my men are not involved. If my men are involved, I would have been briefed. All I heard as of this morning, is that some protesting women took over some Chevron facilities at Ilaje.

The Ondo state commissioner for environment and mineral resources, Ebiseni claimed ignorance of the development. His words, "I am hearing this issue of brutalization of the women for the first time. We are already trying to broker peace between the women and the oil company and a meeting has been slated with the women's representative for Thursday".

He however, urged caution on the matter "because this particular issue is capable of throwing the whole of the Niger Delta area into an unprecedented violence." (August 21, 2002 Nigerian newspaper The Guardian web site on 21 August)

BURMA -- For years, there have been reports that Burmese soldiers were sexually abusing women from minority groups such as the Shan and Karn. More recently, evidence has surfaced that these rapes were an integral part of a campaign by Rangoon to terrorise its opponents, speed ethnic cleansing and demonstrate its superiority.

In a remote village of Chiang Mai, a 17-year-old girl sits in a small makeshift shelter, bowing her head in an attempt to avoid making eye contact with visitors. The girl, identified in the report Licence to Rape by the pseudonym Naang Hla, was gang-raped by Burmese soldiers last August when she was seven-months pregnant. The Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) and the Shan Womens Action Network (Swan) first encountered Naang Hla six months ago after she fled to a small village on the border between Burma and Chiang Mai province.

In Licence to Rape, the SHRF and Swan chronicle the Burmese militarys use of sexual violence as a weapon against Shan girls and women in the war in Shan State. The report, released last June, has drawn immense attention from the international community and the media. Immediately after its launch, the BBC sent a crew to the Thai-Burmese border to investigate the cases. The issue was raised at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ministerial meeting in Brunei last month.

Naang Hla is one of 625 Shan girls and women recorded as being victims of sexual violence by the Burmese military during the conflict. From a global perspective, the 625 Shan girls and women are just a small fraction of the women all around the world who, over the centuries, have experienced rape as a weapon of war during international and internal armed conflicts.

The first mass rape was recorded as part of the legend of the origin of Rome. During his reign, Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome, was tainted with the story of the rape of the Sabine women during the battle with the Latins. The Sabine was one of two tribes under the leadership of Titus Tatius, who co-reigned with Romulus.

From the legend of the rape of the Sabine women to the documented stories of violence against women during World War II, in Vietnam, Rwanda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burma and countless other conflicts, armies have actively sought out women to use them in this form of warfare. The rape of women is as much a part of war as the killing of soldiers.

In her report submitted to the UNs commission on Human Rights in 1997, Radhika Coomaraswamy, a UN special rapporteur on violence against women, said rape is used as an instrument of war for many reasons including to terrorise populations and to induce civilians to flee their homes and villages.

During armed conflict, rape is used by both sides as a symbolic act, she said in the paper, to, among other things, demonstrate victory over the men of the other group who have failed to protect their women. For Nang Hseng Noung, a Shan woman who was born in Thailand and works for Swan, sexual violence against Shan women is committed under the same philosophy. She said rape is used by the Burmese military as a means of eradicating all people from different races who oppose its military regime.

They use rape as a weapon and womens bodies as targets of war, she said. Her opinion was echoed by Betsy Apple, an American woman who stayed in Shan State and Burma for about a decade, who said that rape is an integral part of conflict.

In her book, School for Rape: The Burmese Military and Sexual Violence, Apple said that since independence in 1948, Burma has been the scene of thousands of incidents of rape. Burmese soldiers received systematic training in rape as a tool for conducting ethnic cleansing, said Apple in the book, published in 1998.

According to School for Rape, Burmese soldiers are convinced of their superiority. Under the former Slorc (the State Law and Order Restoration Council) and now the State Peace and Development Council, Burma has waged a campaign of ethnic cleansing against minorities. [The regime] convinces them [newly recruited soldiers] that their enemies are ethnic minorities [be they] students, women, anyone who disagrees with the government and that these millions of people are traitors or infidels, said the book.

Naang Hla and the other Shan womens physical experience of war is just the tip of the iceberg. Numerous reports show that Burmas military leaders are using rape on a wide scale as a weapon of war against the civilian population. However, the exact scale of the atrocities is unknown. The examples presented in School for Rape include reports by the Karen Human Rights Group from 1994-1997, which details numerous incidents of rape against ethnic Karen women during forced-labour campaigns and military occupations of villages.

A report by the Human Rights Foundation of Monland in 1996 showed that women continued to be raped by Burmese soldiers even after the cease-fire agreement between the New Mon State Party and Slorc signed on June 29, 1995. Licence to Rape, however, is the first recorded evidence of the long tradition of raping Shan women during wartime. It shines a light on atrocities previously hidden by the dark clouds of the dictatorship.

Based on interviews with girls and women seeking asylum along the border, the report says, an astounding 83 per cent of the documented rapes of Shan women were committed by military officers from 52 different battalions, usually in front of their own troops. The youngest victim was a five-year-old girl and the oldest was 62.

The rapes were extremely brutal and often involved torture such as beating, mutilation and suffocation. Twenty-five per cent of the rapes resulted in death. Many rapes took place in relocation sites, which are supposed to be safe havens for the villagers.

Asked why she thought the Burmese military inflicted such brutality on her family and other Shan, Naang Hla, who now lives in peace with her eight-month-old boy and a new husband in Thai territory, thought for a minute before giving her answer.

I have heard that there was a fight between the Shan army and the Burmese military many years ago. At that time the Shan military killed six Burmese soldiers and the Burmese wanted to take revenge, said the 17-year-old, who is illiterate.

However, she was at a loss to explain why an ordinary woman such as herself should be caught in the armed conflict, which is supposed to be a fight among soldiers. Nobody knows when the brutality against civilians in Burma will end. The only thing the world can be sure of is that the 625 Shan girls and women will not be the last group of civilian women to become victims of war. As long as Burmas State Peace and Development Council maintains its military might through brutality, rape will continue. (The Nation (Thailand) August 23, 2002)

SOUTH AFRICA -- Women from five continents on Monday unveiled a "women's plan of action" for achieving peace and protecting the environment in the next decade at the opening day of the UN Earth Summit in Johannesburg. "We come from different nations and we speak different languages but wherever we are the world, we all experience the same problems and pressures," the group said in the foyer of the convention centre where the 10-day summit opened Monday.

The diverse group includes government ministers, radical feminists from the 1970s and university students from Europe, the United States, South Africa, India and South America. At the last earth summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, more than 1,500 women from 83 countries unveiled a document entitled "Women's Agenda 21" which spelled out their vision for sustainable development.

The name refers to the lengthy but mostly unimplemented document that emerged from that summit on how the planet should be protected while the needs of the poor were addressed in the 21st century. "Back then ... only one paragraph of Agenda 21 was devoted to women," said Annekathrin Linck from the German Institute Heinrich Boll.

The veterans of the Rio meeting on Monday said they were proud that 10 years later they had as a group gained "credibility, visibility and legitimacy." There was proof of this in the fact that there were far more women at work as delegates, journalists, spokeswomen and members of the security forces at the Johannesburg summit than at its predecessor.

But the author of Women's Agenda 21, Alexandrina Moura, nonetheless pointed out: "From Rio and Johannesburg, the role of women has grown in areas like health and education, but not in the economy or in politics."

The signatories of that document warned that the Johannesburg summit ran the risk of becoming a forum where decisions were taken that would never be implemented. "This is why in the meeting halls and in the streets, women are busy doing everything they can to ensure that governments' promises are put into action," they said.

The founding members of Women's Agenda 21 said they would take part in a big march planned by non-governmental organisation in Johannesburg on Saturday to demand that the summit delivers decisions that will bring sustainable development for all the people on the planet. (Agence France Presse August 26, 2002)

AUSTRALIA -- WOMEN with tertiary qualifications are finding it harder to get a job than men with no higher qualifications. According to new research, 91.4 per cent of men with post-school qualifications are in work, compared with only 56 per cent of women in the same category.

Even more telling is that more than 80 per cent of NSW men with nothing more than a high-school diploma are in employment, but only 77.4 per cent of women in the State with post-school degrees have jobs. "Women and girls have made major gains in participation and attainment at school in both vocational and in higher education," said the study, by the NSW Department for Women.

"However, for some women, these achievements have not always meant the same long-term employment and economic outcomes as for men. Women graduates are more likely to take longer to find employment, to have lower earnings and to take lower-level jobs that do not reflect their qualification levels.

"Women who don't complete schooling or don't obtain a post-school qualification are more likely than men to work part-time or have longer periods of unemployment." The study, titled Profile Of Women In Education And Training, found school-participation rates for girls aged between 15 and 19 has risen from 46.7 per cent to 52.3 per cent in the past decade. For males, the rate has risen from 44.3 per cent to 49 per cent. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of girls staying on from Year 10 to finish Year 12.

In 1986, the female retention rate was 50.7 per cent, compared with 46.7 per cent for boys. Last year, the retention rate for girls had risen to more than 75 per cent, while boys were at 65.6 per cent. In the Higher School Certificate results, girls dominate course awards for English, visual arts, ancient history, legal studies, society and culture, and life management studies. Girls also prevail in biology, food technology, drama, industry studies (hospitality), Aboriginal studies, modern history, food technology, French, Japanese, and textiles and design.

However, girls got the lowest share of course awards in physics, agriculture, engineering science, design and technology, higher-level computing (3-unit) and mathematics (4-unit). With nearly 126,000 women enrolled in higher education, they comprise 55 per cent of all enrolments. Women made up more than 60 per cent of enrolments in education, health, arts, humanities and social science, and veterinary science. (The Sunday Telegraph(Sydney) August 25, 2002)

BRITAIN -- Pub games such as table football are a traditional preserve of young males - but most insist they are happy to share with the girls. Getty Images. CRISIS? What crisis? Despite a wave of bad news for men - such as being more stressed out than ever, losing the career battle to ambitious women and dying younger - British males say that they are happier than ever before.

A new study shows men do not consider masculinity to be in crisis. Instead, most men are 'overwhelmingly optimistic' about life and are happy to be on an equal footing with women. 'We were terribly surprised to find how positively men, and young men in particular, view their place in today's world,' said analyst Fiona Keate of the communications agency Publicis, which carried out the research among all age groups.

'It was so optimistic. They said that they actually liked having women around to compete with them. They weren't resentful of what women have achieved.' Just 8 per cent of men think it is harder to be a man than a woman in today's society, although the figure rose to 21 per cent among men aged 55-64.

One in two men said that they didn't believe claims that men were losing out to women. And one in three said that, even though there was some truth in that notion, life in the twenty-first century was full of positive things to compensate.

'Even in the seven years I've been at work I've seen women's role in the workplace transformed,' said Jamie Burton, 23, an insurance broker from London. 'Women are doing well, but it doesn't worry me. I think it's quite likely I'll end up living with a woman who earns more than I do. Good. Some older men might be worried about that, but I'm just pleased.'

Tony Trantor, 29, an engineer from Manchester, said: 'I've complained to girlfriends in the past about not enjoying the certainties of my father's generation. You face competition at work that didn't exist 30 years ago.

'However, there's no doubt that there's an upside to the way our roles are changing. I still want to settle down and have kids, just like my father and grandfather did, but I know I won't be expected to bear all the financial stress of maintaining a family. That will be a shared experience.'

Men questioned by researchers recognised that one benefit of having working women as partners is that there is more cash to go round. They chose digital cameras, mobile phones and computers as examples of things that matter to them.

And they talked proudly, in a way unthinkable 20 years ago, of looking after their appearance. 'Nowadays we use creams and even hand creams,' said one 30-year-old. 'I work on a building site and sometimes my hands get rough, so I use cream. The majority of blokes do now.'

Men's campaign groups opposed to the 'new' masculinity still complain that women, unlike men, can choose whether to work or have children, or do both. The UK Men's Movement, set up in a bid to promote 'men's equality', has also complained about 'discriminatory' provision of public services such as library tables and parking spaces.

Most demeaning, they say, are advertisements that belittle men, undermining their sexual identity. Examples cited include a billboard promotion for Lee jeans that featured a naked man lying on the floor with a stilettoed foot on his back. However, the new study confirms that it is mainly older men who remain uncomfortable with modern notions of masculinity.

One respondent aged 60 said: 'There's a great deal of uncertainty now in how to deal with women. It's difficult to know whether to employ the old-fashioned courtesies and etiquette.' And a 38-year-old complained: 'You're expected to be this person, a modern man. Sometimes it feels like harassment.' Most between 18 and 45 chose words such as 'success', 'freedom' and 'equality' to identify how they felt about being men in 2002.

Their more progressive views are even reflected in their choice of reading. The circulation of Viz , the cartoon magazine featuring Sid the Sexist and Fat Slags, has fallen from 1.1 million a decade ago to less than 200,000.

'Younger men are also identifying more than they were 10 years ago that they may have to be a "provider" in family life,' said Keate. 'They're responding to women's rejection of the supermum role as more women decide that they don't want to juggle both a career and family life.'

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About a boy

* Two out of three men spend more time with their children than their fathers did

* One man in three now spends more on grooming products than his female partner

* A new dad in 2002 will give up 2,200 hours of time in pubs and restaurants during the first 16 years of his child's life. His partner will sacrifice 3,700 hours

* 27 per cent of men admit they use mobile phones mainly 'for gossip'

* A new dad in 2002 will lose 616 hours of sleep over the next three years, but a new mother can expect to lose 1,968.

* It now takes the average British man 55 minutes to get ready to go out

* 73 per cent of men now use a fragrance every day

* From April 2003, men will receive paid statutory paternity leave for the first time (The Observer August 25, 2002)

USA -- More women are expected to move into statehouses as governors after this fall's elections, but the prospects for significantly increasing women's representation in Congress are dim. A decade after "the year of the woman" brought dramatic gains, the number of women in the House of Representatives may even decline next year.

"There was an expectation after 1992, that 10 years later and in another redistricting year, there would be another opportunity for a surge of women candidates," says Amy Walter, who tracks House races for the non-partisan Cook Political Report. "That didn't happen." Instead, just 37 House members are retiring and only a few dozen House races are seen as competitive. That doesn't create many openings for women or other newcomers to make inroads. And some female incumbents are likely to leave, voluntarily or not:

* In the House, Republican Marge Roukema of New Jersey is retiring, and Democrat Lynn Rivers of Michigan lost the nomination to fellow incumbent John Dingell after a bitter primary battle. Redistricting put them in the same district. Six of the 60 female House members are in tough races.

Three women running for open seats, with no incumbent on the ballot, are favored to win. Several others are in competitive races.

* In the Senate, Democrat Jean Carnahan, one of 13 female members, faces a competitive race in Missouri against Republican Jim Talent to fill the four years remaining in her term.

In 2000, her husband, Gov. Mel Carnahan, was campaigning for the Senate when he was killed in an airplane crash.

By law, his name remained on the ballot, but the acting governor announced he would appoint her to the seat if her husband won. Now she must stand for election on her own.

Of prospective new female senators, Republican Elizabeth Dole is leading in the North Carolina contest to succeed the retiring Sen. Jesse Helms.

In New Hampshire, Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen is in a competitive race for a Senate seat. (USA TODAY August 26, 2002)

IRAN -- Excerpt from report by Iranian radio on 24 August On the first day of Government Week the president and his ministers visited the tomb of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and paid tribute to the architect and great leader of the Islamic revolution of Iran... Mr. Khatami also spoke about the week for paying tribute to women and Mother's Day. He pointed to the promotion of the role of women in society and said:

Khatami Fortunately, women in our society have proven their excellent qualifications while preserving their Islamic and Iranian standards. These qualifications have remained hidden in the course of history because of various deprivations. However, we have had valuable figures among women in the areas of literature, science, politics, culture and arts throughout our history. We believe that they deserve more. In the atmosphere created after the revolution, Iranian women have felt that they can preserve their religious and cultural identity and at the same time make progress in various fields. So they displayed their capabilities. We believe that we have not worked as much as they deserve and what they have gained has been a result of their own efforts. Fortunately the opening of doors of managerial and scientific promotion to our women and their presence in various fields showed that our women will have extraordinary growth if we pave the way and remove the obstacles. They can work as well as men and in some areas even better than men. (Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring August 24, 2002)

USA -- Anti-abortion groups petitioned the Food and Drug Administration Wednesday to halt sales of the abortion pill Mifeprex, saying the agency shouldn't have approved it almost two years ago. The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Christian Medical Association and Concerned Women for America argued that FDA bent its own rules in approving Mifeprex, including eliminating safeguards required during the pill's testing.

The groups called the drug dangerous for women, citing FDA's report last April of five Mifeprex users with health problems, including two who suffered ruptured ectopic pregnancies, one fatal. Mifeprex does not abort an ectopic, or tubal, pregnancy, and is not supposed to be given to women with that life-threatening condition.

The other reports included two women with infections, one fatal, and one heart attack. The FDA hasn't determined that the drug played any role in the cases. The FDA said it would review the petition, which puts in official form recurring criticism from anti-abortion groups. The FDA has long defended its September 2000 approval of Mifeprex, which came after four years of review, as based on sound science plus 12 years of the pill's use in Europe. To revoke approval or place new restrictions on Mifeprex, FDA would have to decide there is new evidence of risk to women.

Mifeprex underwent "very rigorous" testing and review before FDA approval and "has proved to be a very safe and effective and acceptable drug," said Beverly Winikoff of the Population Council, which holds U.S. rights to Mifeprex. "There is no evidence to the contrary."

Only women in the first seven weeks of pregnancy are candidates for a Mifeprex abortion. Mifeprex blocks a hormone vital for embryo development; a second drug called misoprostol causes contractions to expel the embryo. The combination causes abortion 95 percent of the time; serious bleeding is a rare side effect. (The Associated Press August 21, 2002)

MALAYSIA -- The government is making efforts to determine why women students outnumber their male counterparts in local universities, and will take measures to rectify the situation. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said something had to be done to correct the imbalance.

"Definitely not by reducing the number of female students in universities, but more on efforts to increase the number of male students. They need to be given motivation," he told a news conference after launching the Women's Day 2002 celebrations at Stadium Putra here today. Earlier, in his speech, Dr Mahathir said about 70 percent of university students, especially among the Malays, were females.

Efforts in prodding male students to study hard and enter universities had not met with encouraging response, he said. Dr Mahathir said this made him believe that the future of the country would be increasingly decided by the women folk.

"Bit by bit the "attack" by women folk in the country is making progress. In many ministries, the secretaries are now women," he said. "Women have proven their determination to the extent that some have become fighter jet pilots. Don't the men folk feel embarrassed; do they want to go back home to cook and allow their wives to come out and earn a living?" he said.

Dr Mahathir said he felt uneasy about the low number of male students in universities because it was important to strike a balance in manpower between the two sexes. "There must be a balance between men and women in the workforce. Maybe in certain fields there will be fewer men but in other areas they should outnumber the women," he said.

Present at the launch were the prime minister's wife Datin Seri Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil. The Women's Day celebrations, themed "Light: Inculcating a Knowledgeable Generation", was attended by some 15,000 women of various age-groups and backgrounds representing government agencies, non-governmental organisations, uniformed units and institutions of higher learning. (Malaysia General News August 25, 2002)

WASHINGTON - Many Florida women are choosing to have abortions rather than submit to a law forcing them to publish details of their sex lives before they can offer a child for adoption, according to lawyers fighting the law. The 106-page adoption legislation was passed with little fanfare last October but is now fuelling a growing controversy. Yesterday, it was brought to an appeals court after a lower court ruled that its provisions do not apply in cases of forcible rape, but do in other cases.

The law applies to women who offer a child for adoption when the father is not identified. It requires that they publish details of every sexual encounter that could have caused the pregnancy, along with names -- if possible -- and descriptions of the men, in the local newspaper where the incident took place, so any men who may be the father and want to contest the adoption can come forward. Charlotte Danciu, a lawyer representing six women challenging the law, calls it "horrific."

She has refused to place any ads in local papers and says as many as 15 of her clients have decided to have abortions rather than face public humiliation. Jeanne Tate, another adoption lawyer, has placed more than 50 such ads around the state.

She also says some of her clients are choosing abortion, which requires no consent, over the new and intrusive adoption process. Several adoption agencies in Florida have noticed a dramatic drop-off in the number of babies being put up for adoption. Before the law, there were between 5,000 and 7,000 adoptions a year in Florida.

Further complicating the situation, many newspapers are refusing to run the ads, which appear in small print far in the back, creating a "legal impossibility" for those women who decide to go through with adoption despite the indignity, Ms. Danciu said.

The law's backers say it was intended to ensure that fathers are not excluded from the adoption process, noting several high-profile cases where a father showed up years later and wanted to have an adoption reversed. "Allowing mothers to put their children up for adoption without notifying the father is just another attempt to take the father out of the picture," said David Wilson, founder of Fathers Awareness of Rights and Custody Equality in Cocoa Beach, Fla.

The law arose from the case of baby Emily, who was the subject of a notorious three-year legal battle after her father, a convicted rapist, tried to contest her adoption long after the event. The court eventually ruled against him. But the bill was plagued with so many problems that Jeb Bush, Florida's Governor, let it become law without his signature, only refraining from a veto because he was promised it would be quickly amended -- something that has not yet happened.

Even the legislators who sponsored the law are rapidly backing away from it. State Senator Walter "Skip" Campbell, a powerful Democrat, refuses to do any more interviews on the subject and in a letter to the Senate's president last week, conceded the law "contains some significant unintended consequences."

He blamed his staff for doing a bad job of drafting the law's language. The issue has had the unprecedented effect of uniting pro- and anti-abortion groups. Reverend Jerry Falwell called it a "bad law," which will "encourage abortion rather than adoption."

The pro-abortion National Organization for Women is also onside. The Catholic Church, which supported the bill, is also rethinking its position. Some men's groups are also having second thoughts, no more thrilled than women at having their sex lives appear in print. Ms. Danciu thinks there is a good chance the appeals court will find the law violates constitutional privacy protections, and even if it does not, the Florida legislature will likely take up the issue when it meets next on March 4.

In Canada, fathers have to be consulted before a child can be placed for adoption, but the onus is on the father to prove paternity in a reasonable amount of time, said Judy Grove, executive director of the Adoption Council of Canada. "Nothing here is the equivalent of the Florida law," she said. (National Post (f/k/a The Financial Post) August 23, 2002)

KOREA -- The nation's major large conglomerates employ women for only 12.7 percent of their workforce, an online job information company said yesterday. Recruit ( has recently conducted a survey of 60 large conglomerates to figure out their ratio of women workers. Broken down by industry, cosmetics topped the list boasting 40.2 percent women employees, followed by distribution at 39.6 percent, financial services at 32.4 percent and food services at 24.4 percent.

Three businesses sectors, construction, electronics and petrochemicals, hired a far lower 5.4 percent, 5.7 percent and 3.6 percent of women workers, respectively. Meanwhile, as for high-ranking women officials, information technology companies employed 25.6 percent women managers, higher than 11.1 percent in construction, 7.4 percent in petrochemicals and 5.4 percent in financing. "The ratio of women workers in big Korean companies is too low when compared with developed nations. However, smokestack industries such as construction have a comparatively high percentage of women officials as the conservative industry does not kick out women once they are promoted to a higher position," said Recruit President Lee Jung-joo. (THE KOREA HERALD August 20, 2002)

AUSTRALIA -- Women who drink green tea daily can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by almost 60 percent compared with non-tea drinkers, according to a study released here Wednesday Perth's Curtin University said the study focused on more than 900 women in China and was carried out in collaboration with researchers at Zhejiang Cancer Hospital in Hangzhou, China.

Researchers from the university's school of public health said they found that while benefits were greatest for women drinking green tea, other varieties also provided protection against cancer.
The findings have been published in the current issue of the American Association for Cancer Research journal, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. The university's professor of public health, Colin Binns, a nutrition expert, said the research showed women who drank tea daily for many years could reduce their risk of the cancer by as much as 77 percent compared to non-tea drinkers.

Researchers chose to go outside Australia to give them bigger numbers of women to study, the university said. China's big population made it easier to obtain the sample sizes needed for internationally recognised studies. Binns said the study covered 254 women with confirmed ovarian cancer and 652 without cancer.

He said information on the frequency, type and duration of tea consumption was collected through interviews, and the risk of ovarian cancer among tea drinkers took into account other factors such as smoking, oral contraceptive use, physical activity and family history of ovarian cancer.

Results suggested daily drinking of tea, particularly green tea, offered women a high degree of protection from the cancer. The study found the risk of developing ovarian cancer was considerably less in women with increased tea consumption and years of tea drinking. When different types of tea were examined, the protective effect for black or oolong tea was evident only when these were consumed daily.

"Green tea seems to have the strongest influence but any type of tea consumed daily produced beneficial effects in terms of a substantial reduction in the incidence of ovarian cancer," Binns said.
He added that ovarian cancer was the seventh most common cancer in women and the leading cause of death among gynaecological cancers. (Agence France Presse August 21, 2002)

IRELAND -- THIRTY women have been victims of paramilitary-style assaults in the past five years, the Irish News has learned. Police released the figures as details emerged of a single paramilitary attack on four women in which a teenage girl sustained spinal injuries.

The attack, which police said took place in Newtownabbey on July 28, has previously gone unreported. Women account for two per cent of the total number of victims of beatings and shootings recorded since 1997.

Statistics show that 1,466 people have been victims of paramilitary attacks during that period. The most recent attack on a woman occurred on Wednesday night, a month after the Newtownabbey incident. Eight masked men burst into a house in Innis Park, Newtownabbey at 5.45am on the morning of July 28. Three women, a 14-year-old girl and a baby were in the house at the time. The men claimed they were from a paramilitary organisation, threatened the women and assaulted them.

In a bid to escape from the gang a teenage girl threw herself out of a top storey window and sustained spinal injuries. The other women were treated for cuts and bruising. In the latest incident a 30-year-old woman was beaten with iron bars in front of her daughter at her Tamery Pass home in east Belfast's Willowfield area.

Ten masked men forced their way into her house shortly before 10pm on Wednesday. They ransacked a number of rooms and smashed all the downstairs windows before beating the woman in front of her 12-year-old daughter. The woman was treated in hospital for a suspected broken arm and leg.

Separate figures for the number of attacks on women attributed to loyalists and republicans was unavailable last night. "Paramilitary assaults on a person is wrong irrespective of whether they are a male, female, or a child. All such beatings and shootings must be condemned, " a police spokesman said. SDLP gender spokeswoman Patricia Lewsley said she was alarmed by the statistics but added that attacks on men and women needed to be condemned equally.

"The issue for me is that while it is only two per cent of the total it is still two per cent of women who would not have the same strength as men. Nevertheless, all paramilitary beatings must be condemned, " she said. "The figures are shocking because people would think that an attack on a woman would be more vicious than an attack on a man but nether should be accepted." (Irish News August 24, 2002)

USA -- The commission recently formed by the Bush Administration to review Title IX will hold its first public hearing in Atlanta on August 27 and 28. National Women's Law Center Co-President Marcia D. Greenberger will testify on August 27 to rebut some of the arguments made by opponents of Title IX and make the case for vigorous enforcement of current Title IX policies. Title IX is the federal law that bars sex discrimination in all aspects of federally funded education, but is best known for expanding opportunities for women and girls in athletics. Who:

Marcia D. Greenberger, NWLC Co-President

What: To testify at Title IX Commission Hearing
Future Commission Hearings:
September 17-18 in Chicago, Illinois
October 22-23 in Colorado Springs, Colorado
November 20-21 in San Diego, California
December 4 in Philadelphia
January 8 in Washington, DC

Background: Opponents of Title IX claim they are in favor of Title IX, but that its policies require "quotas" and hurt men's teams. In reality, nothing in the law or the policies requires quotas, and neither the law nor the policies is the cause of the cutbacks to certain men's teams. In fact, every court that has heard this argument has said that Title IX does not require quotas. In addition, 72 percent of all colleges and universities added teams for women without cutting any teams for men, and men's budgets and participation opportunities have increased since the passage of Title IX.

For more information or comment, please call 202-588-5180 or visit the Athletics and Education sections of

The National Women's Law Center is a non-profit organization that has been working since 1972 to advance and protect women's legal rights. The Center focuses on major policy areas of importance to women and their families including economic security, education, employment and health, with special attention given to the concerns of low-income women. (U.S. Newswire August 23, 2002)

USA -- The U.S. Committee for the United Nations Population Fund announced today that it will respond to a citizen initiative to replace part of the $34 million denied to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) by the Bush administration in July.

The monies, earmarked for the U.N. Population Fund's work in 141 low-income countries would have supported programs for improving birthing outcomes, preventing HIV transmission, and enabling women and men to choose family size. They were withdrawn over false charges of the Agency's support for coercive abortion in China despite the fact that none of the U.S. funds, as appropriated by Congress, can be spent in China. Hence, the decision penalizes millions of other poor women in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Calling the citizen response "an exercise in outraged democracy," Peter Purdy, president of the U.S. Committee, praised Inland Planet, a West Coast outgrowth of the Planet Campaign formerly funded by the Hewlett and Packard Foundations to encourage public support for international family planning. "We are immensely pleased that they are urging Americans to send in a $l contribution to the U.S. Committee as an expression of anger over the White House decision. At the same time, we know that many Americans also want to help prevent the 5,000 maternal deaths, 800,000 abortions and 2 million unplanned pregnancies which are a projected outcome of the U.S. government monies being withdrawn," added Purdy.

Jane Roberts, speaking on behalf of the Inland Planet, called on Americans to "do the right thing even if our government won't," noting "that this effort is within everyone's reach. We would rather have many Americans send in $1 dollar than one American trying to make up the difference. It's all about democracy and getting 34 million Americans to do this."

Despite the reports of three international investigative teams to China, including one hand-picked by the Bush administration, to investigate the charges against the U.N. Population Fund, all three found UNFPA's presence and work in China only supported voluntary family planning. UNFPA's support is restricted to 32 counties where the Chinese government has agreed to lift the one-child policy. All three investigative teams recommended funding for UNFPA's work. While the Bush Administration reallocated the funds to the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID), its work is confined to 56 fewer countries than UNFPA's whose programs include key countries in the Middle East and Africa not reached by USAID.

As an overwhelming number of envelopes with $1 contributions stack up at U. S. Committee headquarters, Purdy indicated that acknowledgements will be posted on the web site and that all funds will be directly transmitted to the U. N. Population Fund to ease the negative impact of the Bush Administration's decision.
CONTACT: Peter J. Purdy or Cheryl Stanley, 212-297-5200, both of the U.S. Committee for the U. N. Population Fund or Jane Roberts of The Inland Planet Group, 909-793-4578 (U.S. Newswire August 22, 2002)

BRAZIL -- Women are winning more and more space in the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), even in areas once considered exclusive to men. The most recent example comes from the unprecedented decision of the Aeronautica command to accept female candidates for pilot training at the Air Force Academy.

The measure will give the opportunity for thousands of young Brazilian women to realize the dream of piloting military aircraft. That dream already is being realized in part by Thais Franchi Cruz, a lieutenant and electrical engineer trained by the Aeronautics Technology Institute (ITA), the first woman to take the challenging flight training course at the Aerospace Technology Center (CTA). The course, besides being the only one in Latin America, is among the four best ones in the world, considered to be on a par with the one offered in England. "At first I was a little shocked with the work load and the technical terms, since my background had nothing to do with aeronautics. Now, I participate in the flights in tranquility," said Cruz. Amid the radical maneuvers, she needs concentration to make annotations and do calculations on the performance of the aircraft. She and her seven colleagues are being prepared to make theoretic and practical analyses of military aircraft. (Virginia Silveira, Gazeta Mercantil, translated by James Bruce) (GAZETA MERCANTIL ONLINE August 20, 2002)

ARGENTINA -- Anti-globalization protesters will be examining the case of Argentina, now in the grip of a deep and painful recession, at a four-day meeting that opens here tomorrow. The Argentina Thematic Social Forum will draw delegates of more than 400 organizations from this country and abroad that are opposed to the globalization process in its current form. The theme of the Thursday through Sunday gathering is "the crisis of the neo-liberal model in Argentina and the challenges for the global movement."

The first World Social Forum was held in January 2001 in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, as a sort of counterpoint to the World Economic Forum in the Swiss alpine resort town of Davos. It has become the foremost expression of the international movement against the economic and political globalization process. "We want to call into question the idea that there is only one way of thinking, and to demonstrate the total failure of those ideas in Argentina," sociologist Atilio Bor n told IPS.

Born, the executive secretary of the Latin American Council of Social Sciences, is a member of the committee that is organizing this week's gathering. Argentina has been in the grip of recession for more than four years, and authorities predict that gross domestic product (GDP) will shrink 13.5 percent this year. The unemployment rate officially stands at 21.4 percent, and over half of the population of 36 million has sunk into poverty.

In the midst of the disintegration of what was once Latin America's richest country -- indeed, one of the richest countries in the world in the early 20th century -- society has lost all faith in the political class, which it blames for the crisis. In December, an explosive combination of economic collapse and a plunge in the credibility of corrupt or inept politicians toppled the government of then-president Fernando de la Ra, and less than two weeks later, the caretaker administration of Adolfo Rodriguez Sa.

Interim President Eduardo Duhalde, appointed by Congress to complete de la Ra's term, has moved the elections forward to next March. But there are no obvious leaders, and opinion polls indicate that no candidate will take more than 30 percent of the vote.

To express civil society's intention to build an alternative model, the forum will open Thursday with a march from the Plaza de Mayo, in front of the seat of government -- the traditional meeting- ground for protesters -- to the site where the World Social Forum events are to be held. In more than 250 workshops, assemblies and debates, the causes and consequences of the crisis of the "neo-liberal model" will be discussed, as well as the situation in Argentina in the context of global capitalism, the crisis of democracy, and the "trampling of social rights" under capitalism.

Alternatives to the prevailing economic model and experiments in resisting it will also be studied.
Prominent Latin Americans like Argentine Nobel Peace Prize- winner Adolfo P rez Esquivel; Evo Morales, the indigenous leader of Bolivia's coca farmers, who came in second in the Jun 30 presidential elections; Brazilian thinker Emir Sader; and Ana Cece a, the director of the magazine Chiapas, will meet with representatives of the anti-globalization movement from around the world.

The gathering will follow the usual World Social Forum blueprint, according to which each group can propose an activity, which is merely added to the programme. On Sunday, a large assembly and cultural ceremony will close the meeting. After that, foreign delegates will make a tour to learn first-hand what social activists are doing in Argentina.

The gathering will be accompanied by around 100 artistic and cultural events. No conclusions or final documents will be adopted that diminish the diversity of activities and debates to take place during the four-day gathering. "We have observed among the public that there is an increasingly critical view of the neo-liberal economic formulas," said Born, who expressed surprise at the keen interest shown by hundreds of varied organizations.

"The response by the people has been strong. But we are not building up false hopes, because we also know that the governments have been insensitive and stubborn, and have ignored the proposals that have emerged from different sectors of society in the past few years," said the academic. For example, an initiative set forth by the Congreso de Trabajadores Argentinos central trade union, aimed at reactivating the economy, increasing tax collection and providing a subsidy to the unemployed, was completely ignored by Argentine authorities.

The Grupo F nix, made up of University of Buenos Aires economists, also drafted a proposal for a renegotiation of the foreign debt -- on which Argentina defaulted in early January - a more just distribution of wealth, and solutions to help the country pull out of its current crisis.

"The association that groups small and medium-sized companies also put forth its own suggestions, but no political party has taken up those ideas," said Bor n. "That is why we will insist on demonstrating the failure of the neo-liberal model in Argentina, because we believe it is a very revealing experience."

 After all, Argentina was the "poster child" of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), whose prescriptions it followed to the letter. The first World Social Forum, in January 2001 in Porto Alegre, drew human rights, student and women's activists, trade unionists, environmentalists and farmers from all over the world, to protest the negative effects of the globalization process.

Last February, during the second World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, the organizing committee urged participants to hold thematic meetings in countries in the midst of crisis, to carry the debate to nations that are caught up in the breakdown of the neo-liberal model.

The suggestion for the first such meeting emerged among organizations in Argentina. "In the past few years, the administrations that have governed our country implemented each and every one of the measures imposed by the IMF and the World Bank," states a communique issued by the groups that convened this week's meeting.

But those policies tipped Argentina "into the worst crisis in its history, with the subsequent unemployment and hunger, which today endanger the future of millions of people, once more revealing to the world the neo-liberal model's inability to promote the development and well-being of nations," the document adds.

Starting on Thursday, activists in Argentina will attempt to demonstrate the truth of the World Social Forum slogan, "Another World is Possible". (Inter Press Service August 21, 2002)