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9/6/1995 - First Global Congress of Women in Politics Agrees on Overall Strategy

Following a series of regional strategy meetings held over the course of the past week, the First Global Congress of Women in Politics has agreed on an overall strategy that calls on governments assembled here in Beijing to commit to gender balance in political decision-making at all levels and in all the world's countries.

While individual regional reports identified some obstacles to women's political advancement that were culture specific, women meeting here to organize a global political network nonetheless discovered that they had many key problems in common: money, access to party nominating structures, and significant party support when they did manage to become candidates.

Ironically, the various reports revealed that despite long traditions of democracy and democratic institutions, a majority of countries in North America and Western Europe lag behind many other countries across the world in the percentages of women holding political office at both the local and national levels.

Led by NGO leaders from the United States, Sweden, Ireland and the United Kingdom, the North American/Western European Congress agreed on a 5-point strategy for the immediate future:

To press for affirmative action policies and strategies within each country that would put more women in the political pipeline;

To work for campaign finance reform that would both change how political campaigns are funded and that would put a ceiling on the amount of money that could be spent on campaigns;

To conduct nationwide political education programs in each country for young women and girls that stress that importance of political participation -- as both voters and as potential office holders -- by making the links between politics and situations that affect our everyday lives;

To create a mentorship program in each country in which seasoned women office holders would mentor women who are holding their first political offices in order to help them avoid pitfalls;

To teach women interested in running for political office how to effectively use the media to get their messages out .
As the First Global Congress was concluding, plans were being made for follow-up activities to expand and advance the emerging network.


9/6/1995 - From Cairo to Beijing Workshop

Approximately 40 people braved the rain to attend today's Feminist Majority workshop, From Cairo to Beijing. Panelists spoke from Asia, Africa, and the United States about the successes and problems with the implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo last year.

All three panelists stressed the important role of NGOs in developing new ways to solve problems, monitoring governments, and serving as a bridge between the people of the country and their governments. They also discussed the great impact that the political climate in countries has on the degree to which the decisions made at international conferences are implemented.

A representative of the Environment and Population Center in Zambia discussed the positive impacts of the ICPD, including development of a program that making medical care available free to all pregnant women and children under age five. A national commission was also formed to look at the best ways to transfer the Cairo agreements to national policies.

However, because many of the NGOs in Zambia and the rest of Sub-saharan Africa are poorly funded, many have not adopted a long-term perspective on attempting to implement the Plan of Action. In addition, information dissemination about the implications of the decisions made at the conference to the grassroots and to the people of Zambia has been difficult.

Karen Rindge, from Planned Parenthood, spoke on the U.S. perspective of the ICPD. She had very little good news to tell. The lack of financial support from foundations for NGOs working on implementation of Cairo and the shift in control of the U.S. Congress to conservative Republicans have undermined implementation of the Cairo document in the U.S. The Republican-controlled House and the Senate are attempting to both dismantle domestic social programs in the U.S. and to slash international family planning assistance, cutting the funding entirely for organizations working on reproductive rights issues.

A panelist from Bangladesh told the audience about problems with implementation of the agreements in her country. The UNFPA has translated the platform into Bangla, which is the language that 80% of the people speak and formed an advisory panel for follow-up of the conference. However, while the only organizations really interested in implementing the decisions from the Cairo conference in Bangladesh have been women, these very organizations have been excluded from the governmental process.

The panelists reminded the audience that despite some setbacks in implemenation of the Cairo Plan of Action in the first year, the document sets forth a ten-year implementation strategy.

9/5/1995 - Lesbians March In Huairou

Huairou, China, Sept. 5 - I joined several hundred other people to march for lesbian rights on Tuesday, September 5th. The march spanned nearly the entire NGO forum site, beginning at the main entrance and ending at the lesbian tent at the other end of the site.

Demonstrating the international nature of the movement, slogans were chanted in French, Swahili, Spanish, and English, and there were signs in several different languages as well. Chants included a call and response: "What do we want?": "Lesbian rights!"; "When do we want them?": "Now!" as well as "Lesbian Rights are Women's Rights!" and "Women united will never be divided!" In both French and English, over thirty banners and signs were displayed, most reading "Lesbian Rights are Human Rights."

Onlookers were generally very supportive, and many either joined in the chants or clapped. At the end of the march, we were exhausted and hoarse after marching and chanting for nearly an hour and a half but exhilarated by the solidarity displayed both by participants and onlookers.

9/5/1995 - World Bank Utilizes Crucial Resource

Commentary by Eleanor Smeal

When he addresses the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing next week, World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn is expected to argue that women bring a necessary resource to economic strategizing. Indeed the bank is expected to take to Beijing the long-time feminist message that discrimination against women hurts financial institutions.

In 1988, the World Bank employed women in only three percent of its senior management positions. And the bank employed only eight women, out of 143 men, in its top four grades. Then-President Lewis T. Preston reported that, "With this record, we cannot claim to have tapped the largest possible population for excellence" (The Washington Post, E1, 9/10/95). At the urging of feminists and economists, the World Bank began to increase the amount of women in its upper-managerial positions.

Though undergoing a time of large downsizing, the bank did increase the number of top female executives. Now women represent eight percent of senior management positions, though the bank still has only one female vice-president and no female managing directors. In 1995, women make-up thirty percent of the professional staff and roughly twenty-three percent of advanced professional staff, up five percent and eight percent respectively since 1988. This increase due to the World Bank's concerted efforts to hire more women, still does not reflect true equality. The World Bank along with other institutions must continue, indeed step up, its efforts to promote women into upper-management positions.


9/5/1995 - Teachers' Unions On the Defensive

The conservative political climate now endangers teachers' unions, which face attack from both federal and state governments. New measures, threaten to limit teachers' abilities to strike, raise money, and bargain. The measures also limit tenure and a unions' abilities to negotiate issues such as privatization of schools. A new Michigan law, for example, which teachers are now fighting in the courts, allows teachers to be fined if they strike and Republican Wisconsin Governor Tommy G. Thompson proposes allowing school boards to decide on merit-pay plans without agreement from teachers' unions. For the first time, Indiana's State Teachers' Association will not have the ability to bargain for "fair share" agreements, which allow the Union to assess fees to nonmember teachers. This law came about after a Republican Congress overruled the Democratic Governor's, Evan Bayh, veto. Republican leaders have targeted the National Education Association, which, with 2.2 million members, is America's largest Union. They have also targeted the American Federation of Teachers, which maintains 875,000 members.

9/5/1995 - Legal Cutbacks for the Poor

The Republican Congress has significantly decreased the amount of funding for Legal Aid Programs designed to help the poor. Congress has reduced the budgets of sixteen national organizations, which provide legal advice to lawyers in neighborhood offices, by twenty-four percent this year alone. Due to budget cuts, the National Housing Law Project in Oakland, California had to lay off four of its eight attorneys this past summer and the Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law, which has handled a dozen welfare related Supreme Court Cases, is closing its branch offices in D.C. Further lay-offs have occurred at the National Consumer Law Center in Boston, the National Center for Youth Law and Legal Services of Greater Miami. The House also voted to prohibit legal aid lawyers from lobbying or participating in litigation in any way concerning the reform of state or federal welfare systems. These measures come at a time when radical welfare changes increase poor persons' need for legal advocates.

9/1/1995 - New England Journal of Medicine Steps Up Security

After receiving an angry fax from Operation Rescue activist Terry Randall, the New England Journal of Medicine has tightened security at its Boston-based offices. Randall sent the fax in response to a study published in the Journal and written by Dr. Richard Hausknecht which found that a combination of two commonly available medicines can induce abortions. In the fax, Randall claimed that the study was "Nazi-like" and warned the doctors involved that, "when abortion is made illegal again, you will be hunted down and tried for genocide" (Reuter 9/1). The Massachusetts Medical Society, which owns the journal, and Hausknecht have also hired more security.

9/1/1995 - U.S. Circuit Court Strikes Down Portions of Restrictive Abortion Law

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that portions of a 1993 South Dakota law are too restrictive. The panel ruled that the state cannot include a parental notification mandate unless the minor also has the option of receiving permission from another authority, such as a court. The court also ruled that doctors cannot receive civil or criminal penalties for failing to comply with the law's provisions. The court did uphold a section of the law which requires doctors to give women information on the possible risks of receiving an abortion at least twenty-four hours before performing the abortion.

8/31/1995 - Implant Makers and Women's Lawyers Miss Deadline for New Settlement

Lead attorneys for women suing breast implant manufacturers failed to reach an agreement with the manufacturers within the thirty day period set by U.S. District Judge Sam Pointer. Last fall, Pointer had approved a $4.25 billion settlement by which implant recipients would each receive a net payment ranging form $105,000 to $1.4 million based on their health and age. However, after court analysts announced that the initial settlement would not be enough to compensate all of the women, Pointer ordered more negotiations. The two sides were to have come up with a larger agreement, one which would have compensated all of the women, but failed to do so by his deadline. Though Pointer has yet to issue a ruling, he could declare the original settlement, in which 400,000 women have agreed to participate, invalid.

8/31/1995 - Students Protest Anti-Affirmative Action Decision

Within the first week of the fall semester, students at UC-Berkeley protested this summer University of California Regents’ decision to eliminate affirmative action in all California University admissions policies. Nearly three-hundred students gathered on noon Wednesday and a smaller group went on to blockade the admissions office for the rest of the afternoon. Organizers claim the days’ rally is only one of many events scheduled to culminate in an October 12 state-wide walk out by students in protest in of the decision. The day’s speeches dealt mainly with race-based affirmative action and neglected gender issues also involved in the Regents’ decision.

8/31/1995 - Citadel Alternative Began Yesterday for South Carolina Women

Twenty-two women began training yesterday at the newly created South Carolina Institute of Leadership for Women. South Carolina and the Citadel gave Converse College, a private women’s school, $10 million to start the leadership program in an attempt to keep women out of the publicly funded Citadel. A federal judge is scheduled to rule in November on whether the new program constitutes a constitutional equivalent of the Citadel, which had lost a sex-discrimination lawsuit filed by Shannon Faulkner when the school rescinded her acceptance upon discovering that she was female.

8/30/1995 - Fire Destroys St. Petersburg Abortion Clinic

Fire struck the St. Petersburg's All Women's Health Center yesterday at approximately 8:30 p.m. The fire, which destroyed the entire building, is the second fire the center has experienced within the past eight days. Officials have concluded that arson was the cause of the first fire and suspect it is the cause of the second fire, though no arrest have yet been made. The suspected arson fires that destroyed the Center is the latest indication that violence against abortion clinics and abortions providers has not abated.

It is vitally important that the Justice Department investigate any and all connections between the individuals and groups that make up the radical fringe of the anti-abortion movement. Florida has been and continues to be a hotbed of anti-abortion violence, having been the site of the murder of two abortion providers, Dr. Gunn and Dr. Britton, and a volunteer escort, James Barrett. Investigation of any links between these and other acts of anti-abortion violence is critical to curbing that violence.

The violence will not stop until all those involved in these acts are brought to justice. We urge the Justice Department to continue to pursue the possibility that an unlawful conspiracy of anti-abortion extremists exists in this country.

8/30/1995 - NOW asks for Reynolds' Resignation

NOW has called on Representative Mel Reynolds to quit immediately. The Illinois Democrat was convicted last week of eleven counts of sexual misconduct and of having sex with a minor. NOW Vice President Rosemary Dempsey stated that such activity was incompatible with service as a public official. Reynolds, who faces sentencing on September 12, plans to ask for a new trial or file an appeal

8/30/1995 - House Republicans Raising Large Contributions

According to the Federal Election Commission, members of both parties in the House raised a combined $43.8 million in the first six months of this year. This represents a 38 percent increase over the 1993 amount for the same time period and the highest total since such records have been kept. In an attempt to maintain their majority in 1996, House Republicans, spurred by the first-year class, have collected $27.5 million. Of the fifty top money-raisers, 36 were Republicans. This contrasts vividly from two years ago when only 15 of the top 50 were Republicans. Within the first-year class, the average Republican raised $142,000 within the first six months of the 1994 election, while the average Democrat raised a little less than $78,000.

8/30/1995 - From Beijing...

The Feminist Majority's delegation to the Fourth World Women's Conference reports that conditions in Beijing are good. Yesterday, they traveled to Huairou, and the conditions there were far more "rustic." The commute, however, did not cause any of the expected problems and took approximately forty minutes. The delegation also has easy access to computers and will start e-mailing conference updates tomorrow. The opening ceremonies for the Non-Government Organizations forum begins today!

8/29/1995 - Numbers Heading to Beijing Show Growth in Women's Movement

In 1990 three-thousand delegates and eleven thousand activists convened in Nairobi to attend the United Nation Women’s Conference. This year, despite adverse circumstances such as a last-minute site change and difficulty in obtaining visas, over forty-thousand women plan to attend the Beijing Conference. Six thousand delegates will attend the Fourth World Conference on Women, and some thirty-six thousand will attend the Non-Government Organizations Forum. This sharp increase in attendees clearly demonstrates the growth of women’s movements worldwide, a growth due in part to the successful women’s conferences in Mexico City (1975), Copenhagen (1980), and Nairobi (1990).

Be sure to look for special reports directly from members of the Feminist Majority’s delegation, now at the NGO Forum.

8/29/1995 - Clintons Mark Anniversary of Women's Suffrage, Hillary Clinton Heads to Beijing

While celebrating the 75th anniversary of the nineteenth amendment in Wyoming, the Clintons reiterated the importance of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on women. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday accepted an invitation to attend the conference, commenting that her trip to Beijing will be "about giving a voice to women," as the U.S. delegation "will try to focus attention on the challenges and burdens women face trying to improve their lives." President Clinton also remarked that the conference will be "true-blue to families." Women’s organizations across the United States supported the decision to attend.

8/29/1995 - Calvin Klein, Inc. to Cease Latest Ad Campaign

Under fire from child welfare authorities, leaders of the Catholic league and the conservative American Family Association, Calvin Klein, Inc. announced Monday that it would cease its latest ad campaign for Klein's designer jeans. The critics, who threatened a nationwide boycott, likened the ads to child-pornography and argued that Klein had gone too far this time in his use of children and erotica to sell merchandise. The company responded to critiques by stating that the ads had simply been "misunderstood by some."

Using sexuality and erotica to sell products ranging from perfume to jeans is nothing new for the infamously daring Calvin Klein ads. For over fifteen years, the ads have objectified women and treated them as mere sexual creatures. Why is it, then, that in all of that time, we have not seen the backlash against the ads we have witnessed until recently? The backlash against the ads came, not just when they were thoroughly sexist and overtly erotic, but when, on top of that, the ads included what appeared to be children. Unfortunately, this sends the message that its perfectly acceptable in American society to use sex and sexism to sell merchandise at the expense of women, but you cross the line only if you chose to involve kids. This particular campaign, which has effectively done its job given the amount of hype it has created, represents only one of many demeaning ploys used by advertisers to sell products. Would Klein, Inc. have removed the ads so quickly if attacked by feminists for beng sexist as now when attacked by conservatives for being akin to child porn?

8/29/1995 - Packwood Shifts Course, Wants Hearings in Public

Senator Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) announced on Friday that he now does want the Senate ethics committee to conduct public hearings on charges against him of sexual misconduct. Packwood had earlier requested, and the Senate voted 52-48 to allow, closed hearings -- since then, however, two new allegations of sexual misconduct have surfaced. There is speculation that Packwood's sudden announcement seeking public hearings was aimed at forestalling another Senate vote, one that might reverse the earlier decision. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Cal.), who led the campaign for public hearings, said in an interview that Packwood might also use the hearings to badger his accusers, out of a belief that "The only way he can get a light sentence is to impugn the witnesses." Boxer added, "Senator Packwood’s request...may seem surprising on the surface, but this was really his only choice given the rising tide of public opinion."

8/29/1995 - Female Legislators on the Decline

Even as democracy grows in Eastern European and African nations, the overall number of women in parliaments is declining. The Inter-Parliamentary Union reported Sunday that of 105 parliaments women made up only 11.3 percent of legislators. This represents a drop from 1988 when women made up 14.8 percent of legislators. The higher percentages of women legislators occurs mainly in the Scandinavian countries, where they make up 40.4 percent in Sweden, 39.4 percent in Norway, and 33.5 percent in Finland. The United States, which has one of the lowest percentages of female legislators among Scandinavian and Western European countries, ranks 43rd out of the 105 countries with eight female Senators and forty-eight Representatives, or roughly ten percent representation in Congress.

8/28/1995 - Bank Merger to Adversely and Disproportionately Affect Women Workers

The board of directors of Chase Manhattan Bank and Chemical Banking announced today that they have voted on a $10 billion stock swap to merge the two banks in an effort to save $1.5 billion annually. The banks said that the new bank, which will maintain the Chase name, expects double-digit per-share earnings and a return of equity of at least 18 percent. This merger, still pending shareholder and regulatory approval, will make Chase the largest bank in the United States, unseating Citicorp.

The merger, however, will result in the loss of approximately 12,000 jobs. Women, who comprise two-thirds of the banking workforce, stand to suffer a diproportionate share of these layoffs. Although heralded as creating the number one bank, this merger actually represents a setback for women who are in or entering the workforce. This setback, coming at a time when some claim that women no longer need affirmative action, is a system of the difficult times women face in the workforce. Downsizing in the white-collar professional, clerical, and communications workforces threatens women’s jobs in the latter half of the 1990’s, much as blue-collar jobs losses in the 1970’s and 1980’s threatened men's jobs.

8/28/1995 - Thousands of Women Arrive Safely in Beijing

Delegates and activists arrived in Beijing Monday ready to begin the United Nation's Fourth World Conference on Women. Approximately 24,000 activists are expected to participate in the Non-Governmental Organizations Forum, which begins Wednesday and runs through September the eighth. The conference itself, which runs from September the fourth to the fifteenth, is expected to draw 6,000 delegates. Though last minute changes by the Chinese government of the NGO Forum's site and trouble by many participants with hotel reservations and visas caused early speculation of a chaotic conference, the initial arrival of persons was handled in an organized fashion. Conference organizers prepared the meeting hall and directed participants towards registration tables and buses without long delays or confusion.

The Feminist Majority's own delegation arrived in Beijing safely and travels to the NGO Forum site today. Look at our Fourth World's Conference on Women section for our delegation's up-to-the-minute Forum news, platform information and reports.

1/21/1995 - Rock for Choice Roe v. Wade Anniversary Show

Taking an electric and eclectic stand against anti-abortion violence,Primus, Fishbone, Face to Face, No Doubt, The Geraldine Fibbers,Possum Dixon, Weapon of Choice, and Stone Fox performed during the Feminist Majority's Rock for Choice Roe v. Wade anniversary show at the Hollywood Palladium on January 21st.

San Francisco based Stone Fox started the night with a roar of powerful female voices. Two years ago they helped organize their own satellite Rock for Choice show in the Bay Area. Also from the Bay Area, headliners Primus shared their quirky brand of rock and roll.
Joined on stage by Mavnard Keenan from the Los Angeles arena rock band TOOL, Primus performed an
unforgettable version of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song.

Carla Bozulich from Ethyl Meatplow debuted her new band the Geraldine Fibbers. Now playing her own brand of countrified rock, Carla continues to be an outspoken feminist voice in the music community. Leading the call to action was Angelo Morey from Los Angeles' Fishbone, demanding that kids get involved and make their voices count for women's rights. Face to
, an up and coming Orange County based group, announced their plans to put out a single benefiting
Rock for Choice with East Coasters the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

In response to the brutal murders by an anti-abortion extremist in Brookline, MA, concert goers signed large scrolls expressing outrage. A plea for a continuing
investigation of anti-abortion violence addressed to President Clinton and Janet Reno was also circulated. Thousands of young people were encouraged to register to vote, get informed and get active in the fight to defend their reproductive freedom.

The January 21st sold-out concert helped raise critically needed funds for the Feminist Majority's abortion rights work.