Friday, September 19, 2014

What We've Been Reading- 9/19

MSNBC: Women in Politics: College Edition:
This is part of a new series “Women of 2014” from MSNBC that shines the spotlight on women in politics this year. This section of the series is particularly exciting because it focuses on what young women leaders are doing to improve their college communities. Read more here and think about nominating an exceptional woman you know! Massachusetts Primary Signals Women Gaining Clout:
This quick read detailed the victories for women in the Sept 9 primary in MA and the exciting progress those victories signal. Stephanie Schriock, President of Emily’s List is quoted saying ‘‘Momentum for women’s leadership has really been growing in Massachusetts in a state that had historically been tough for women candidates.” It’s exciting to see Massachusetts making strides towards equity in representation! Read more here:

The Guardian: Scottish independence debate: women hold the key far from Westminster:  
The piece, written before the results of the recent referendum in Scotland, commented on the key role women were set to play in determining the outcome. With both parties on both sides talking about their plans to address issues like affordable childcare this article says “Women are at the forefront of this campaign in a way that is currently inconceivable in British politics.” It will be interesting to look at analysis of exactly how women voted in the recent referendum, but one thing is for sure this is yet another example of the central role women can and should play in politics. Read more here:

Paycheck Fairness Act Struck Down Again
Irin Carmon of MSNBC wrote an article this Monday on yet another vote against the Paycheck Fairness Act. This week, Senate Republicans voted down the bill for a fourth time in two years. Claiming that the legislation will encourage frivolous lawsuits, opposers have called these votes a waste of time. Politico has also reported that Senate Republicans allowed debate of the bill in order to “eat up Senate floor time” that could have been devoted to votes on the minimum wage or a response to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby contraception decision.
“Senate Republicans had the opportunity to vote for equal pay legislation and affect real change for hardworking women, but they chose to…cling to their extreme agenda at the expense of millions of women and families,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List.

Maternity Leave Discrimination
Emily Wax-Thibodeaux of the Washington Post revealed the shocking story of a Virginia couple who were denied a loan. Though their mortgage application had been approved and the closing for their new home had been scheduled, FirstBank reversed its decision upon learning that the wife was on maternity leave. In fact, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has opened 15 maternity leave discrimination investigations just this year.

Why is this happening? The banks claim that maternity leaves result in the loss of income and the chance that the women may not return to work. “America is just waking up to the fact that moms are in the labor force and we are in the labor force to stay,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director of MomsRising. In fact, three-quarters of American mothers are in the workforce, and four in ten mothers are now the sole or primary breadwinners for their families.

Further, banks are requiring families to write “motivational letters” stating why they wanted a house and their family planning schedule. Linda Falcão, a civil rights attorney from Pennsylvania, was asked to write such a letter. “I felt genuinely humiliated and demeaned to have to discuss, with a total stranger, whether my husband and I were going to have more children or not,” said Falcão. “I didn’t then, and don’t now, think it’s any of their business.”

Women in Rwanda: Empowered And Motivated To Lead But Feeble To Forget|
In 1994, when President Bill Clinton signed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that responded to the inequality encountered by women victims in state justice system, between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the genocide in Rwanda. As Rene Degni-Segui stated in his 1996 UN Special Rapporteur report, “rape was the rule and its absence the exception.” The Hutu majority, with its goal to destroy moderate Hutu and Tutsi, especially targeted women because they wanted to eradicate them and their potential descendants: Tutsi women were not supposed to have reproductive capabilities because future generations of the Tutsi population wanted to be prevented. In order to make their suffering even worse and their death slow, HIV-infected men were recruited to rape women in Rwanda.

Today, 20 years later, Rwanda has the highest percentage of women appointed to government in the world: 64% of women control and make decisions for Rwanda compared to 18% of women appointed to government in the United States that take an infamous 86th place (after Saudi Arabia, China and Pakistan among the others). The post-genocide population was made up of about 70% of women who were left with low financial capabilities and more importantly with no reason to continue their lives. However, mutual strength and support empowered them and made them realize that it was their turn now to take care of their country.

Women knew more about family life, health, education and other need of the community than men. Before the genocide men were making the decisions but just because women did not have means to do so: their obligations were based at home, not in the government. Starting from the local level, women established various councils such as a local women’s council rebuilding their faith in better tomorrow.

Unfortunately, these moments of suffering and pain cannot be simply faded into oblivion. According to the Sowetan’s article form today, “the country struggles with a legacy of traumatized women, unwanted children and high HIV rates.” Women’s groups put in a lot of effort to raise awareness and helped children who experienced trauma and mental health problems when they were told about their origins. However, it is hard to ease inner pain.

The transition of gender equality in Rwanda made a sincere precedent that all countries, developing and developed, democratic and autocratic, should follow. It is needless to say that it should not have happened as a consequence of a genocidal mass slaughter. However, it is pertinent to stand up when you fall down and continue walking with your head up. Many women and their children still suffer in Rwanda and it is most likely that their agony will be everlasting. They need support from the global society, which also has to make sure that the Rwandan genocide does not happen again.