“What she said was offensive,” said Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville. “It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.” – regarding Michigan Rep. Lisa Brown’s use of the word “vagina.”

"What she said was offensive," said Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville. "It was so offensive, I don't even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company." - regarding Michigan Rep. Lisa Brown's use of the word "vagina" while arguing against the state's extreme abortion regulations bill. 

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/06/14/155059849/michigan-state-rep-barred-from-speaking-after-vagina-comments Continue reading

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s Message on the 101st International Women’s Day

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Gender equality and the empowerment of women are gaining ground worldwide.  There are more women Heads of State or Government than ever, and the highest proportion of women serving as Government ministers.  Women are exercising ever greater influence in business.  More girls are going to school, and are growing up healthier and better equipped to realize their potential.

Despite this momentum, there is a long way to go before women and girls can be said to enjoy the fundamental rights, freedom and dignity that are their birthright and that will guarantee their well-being.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world’s rural areas. Rural women and girls — to whom this year’s International Women’s Day is devoted — make up one quarter of the global population, yet routinely figure at the bottom of every economic, social and political indicator, from income and education to health to participation in decision-making.

Numbering almost half a billion smallholder farmers and landless workers, rural women are a major part of the agricultural labour force. They perform most of the unpaid care work in rural areas.  Yet rural women continue to be held back in fulfilling their potential.  If rural women had equal access to productive resources, agricultural yields would rise by 4 per cent, strengthening food and nutrition security and relieving as many as 150 million people from hunger.  Rural women, if given the chance, could also help end the hidden development tragedy of stunting, which affects almost 200 million children worldwide.

Discriminatory laws and practices affect not just women but entire communities and nations.  Countries where women lack land ownership rights or access to credit have significantly more malnourished children.  It makes no sense that women farmers receive only 5 per cent of agricultural extension services.  Investing in rural women is a smart investment in a nation’s development.

The plight of the world’s rural women and girls mirrors that of women and girls throughout society — from the persistence of the glass ceiling to pervasive violence at home, at work and in conflict; from the prioritization of sons for education to the hundreds of thousands of women who die each year in the act of giving life for want of basic obstetric care.  Even those countries with the best records still maintain disparity in what women and men are paid for the same work, and see continuing under-representation of women in political and business decision-making.

On this International Women’s Day, I urge Governments, civil society and the private sector to commit to gender equality and the empowerment of women — as a fundamental human right and a force for the benefit of all.  The energy, talent and strength of women and girls represent humankind’s most valuable untapped natural resource.

Message of Michelle Bachelet Executive Director of UN Women on International Women’s Day 2012

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This International Women’s Day, I join women around the globe in solidarity for human rights, dignity and equality. This sense of mission drives me and millions of people around the world to pursue justice and inclusion. Looking back at the first year of UN Women, I applaud every individual, government and organization working for women’s empowerment and gender equality. I promise the highest commitment moving forward. The creation of UN Women has coincided with deep changes in our world –from rising protests against inequality to uprisings for freedom and democracy in the Arab world.

These events have strengthened my conviction that a sustainable future can only be reached by women, men and young people enjoying equality together.From the government that changes its laws, to the enterprise that provides decent work and equal pay, to the parents that teach their daughter and son that all human beings should be treated the same, equality depends on each of us.

During the past century, since the observance of the first International Women’s Day, we have witnessed a transformation in women’s legal rights, educational achievements, and participation in public life. In all regions, countries have expanded women’s legal entitlements. Women have taken many steps forward. More women are exercising leadership in politics and business, more girls are going to school, and more women survive childbirth and can plan their families.

Yet while tremendous progress has been made, no country can claim to be entirely free from gender-based discrimination. This inequality can be seen in persistent gender wage gaps and unequal opportunities, in low representation of women in leadership in public office and the private sector, in child marriage and missing girls due to son preference, and in continuing violence against women in all its forms.

Nowhere are disparities and barriers greater than in rural areas for women and girls. Rural women and girls comprise one in four people worldwide. They work long hours with little or no pay and produce a large proportion of the food grown, especially in subsistence agriculture. They are farmers, entrepreneurs and leaders, and their contributions sustain their families, communities, nations and all of us.

Yet they face some of the worst inequities in access to social services and land and other productive assets. And this deprives them and the world of the realization of their full potential, which brings me to my main point on this International Women’s Day. No enduring solution to the major changes of our day—from climate change to political and economic instability—can be solved without the full empowerment and participation of the world’s women. We simply can no longer afford to leave women out.

Women’s full and equal participation in the political and economic arena is fundamental to democracy and justice, which people are demanding. Equal rights and opportunity underpin healthy economies and societies.

Providing women farmers with equal access to resources would result in 100 to 150 million fewer hungry people. Providing women with income, land rights and credit would mean fewer malnourished children. Studies show that higher levels of gender equality correlate positively with higher levels of per capita gross national product. Opening economic opportunities to women would significantly raise economic growth and reduce poverty.

The time is now.

Every human being has the right to live in peace and dignity. Every human being has the right to shape their future and the futures of their countries. That is the call for equality that I hear wherever I go. For this reason UN Women will place special focus this year on advancing women’s economic empowerment and political participation and leadership. We look forward to continued strong partnership with women, men and young people and with governments, civil society and the private sector.

Today on International Women’s Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to women’s rights and move forward with courage and determination. Let us defend human rights, the inherent dignity and worth of the human person, and the equal rights of men and women.

HOW WE AS A CULTURE AND AS MEMBERS OF THE GLOBAL COMMUNITY CAN INVOLVE, EDUCATE AND INSPIRE GIRLS IN POSITIVE WAYS

This article is by GPI girl Ewanose Ikede as part of the Blog for International Women’s Day programme.

Girls need safe, structured places to learn and link to basic services that, if absent, can prevent them from learning and functioning within our society. Thus, people’s culture and the global community at large need to positively involve, educate, and inspire them with a view to bringing out the best in them, for the benefit of the society.

Everyone (especially women) needs to inspire today’s girl child by positively influencing her all round development. One of the basic roles of the society in doing this lies in the area of cultural practices. The structure and practice of the African society for instance, limits the scope of the girl in almost in all ramifications. Females in general, are basically limited to domestic functions. They are not given the chance to fairly compete with the male folks, whether politically, religiously or otherwise. The saddest aspect is that of  the few women who have been able to break into the mainstream of the society, a greater percentage of them have refused, neglected and/or failed to inspire our today’s girls either by their actions or inactions.

Some of the ways to positively inspire, involve and educate our today’s girls is for everyone to provide safe, conducive and effective environment for our girls to get inspired and educated and thus, get them involved in the general development of our society. To achieve this, girls need the following:

Physical and Psychological Safety: Safe and health-promoting facilities, practices that increase safe peer group interaction among our girls and decrease unsafe or confrontational peer interactions need to be in place.

Supportive Relationships: Warmth, closeness, connectedness, good communication, caring, support, guidance, secure attachment, and responsiveness should be provided for our girls. Thus, helping to get them inspired to exploit their potentials.

Opportunities to Belong: Opportunities for meaningful inclusion, regardless of one’s gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disabilities; social inclusion, social engagement and integration; opportunities for socio-cultural identity formation; support for cultural and bicultural competence must be given to our today’s girls.

Positive Social Norms: Rules of behavior, expectations, injunctions, ways of doing things, values and morals, obligations for service should be equitably applied notwithstanding the gender.

Support for Efficacy: Girl-based empowerment practices that support autonomy, making a real difference in one’s community, and being taken seriously. Practices that includes enabling, responsibility granting, meaningful challenge. Practices that focus on improvement also ways to educate and inspire our today’s girls.

Opportunities for Skill Building: Another way to educate and inspire our today’s girls include opportunities to learn physical, intellectual, psychological, emotional, social skills; exposure to intentional learning experiences; opportunities to learn cultural literacy, media literacy, communication skills, and good habits of mind; preparation for adult employment; opportunities to develop social and cultural capital.

Conclusively, support, opportunity, social competence and physical competence, are some the ways to positively involve, educate and inspire girls today. By way of advice,  females need to unite and work collectively for the benefit of our girls. According to an Ethiopian Proverb, “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion”.

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