Saturday Reads: Global Grassroots, Women’s Rights and Moving Towards a Paradigm Shift

Alright, it is Saturday, and here is your first installment this weekend…two Minx morning post in a row.  Eeeeek!

So grab your coffee, tea or Diet Coke…and get ready to get down to business.  I have an intense post for you this morning.  I do hope it gets the conversation going.

First, let’s go straight to the head of the line…the one that is populated with all those fetus fanatics.  A beginner’s guide to banning abortion, from the USA – Telegraph Blogs

How do you outlaw abortion in an age that is obsessed with sexual liberty? Given the hysterical response to Nadine Dorries’ modest proposal to reform the counselling given to women seeking a termination in the UK, it seems like an uphill struggle. But quietly, almost without anyone noticing, the Republican Party in the United States is showing how it can be done. It takes time and patience, but the results reflect well on what Dorries has accomplished so far. The best way to kill the abortion industry is not through religious moralising. It’s through red tape.

One thing though, the GOP not only uses the red tape to shackle these women to the PLUB fetus farm, they also use that good ol religion to get the defunding done.

Since the 2010 landslide, the prolifers have adopted a new strategy. Rather than shouting about a national ban and obsessing about picking the right presidential candidate, prolifers have refocused on making life uncomfortable for local abortion providers. Beneath the radar, state-by-state, they are starting to get the job done.

Take Kansas. In April 2011, Republican lawmakers introduced new regulations for the three remaining abortion clinics in the state. The regulations were dubbed “targeted regulation of abortion providers”, or TRAP laws. They specified everything from the size and temperature of counselling rooms to the appropriate number of janitorial closets. The regulations were issued after business hours on a Friday and clinics were given until Monday the next week to comply. Unsurprisingly, none of them were able to rebuild their premises in time. For a few hours it looked like Kansas would become the first state since 1973 to totally outlaw abortion.

Of course, as always happens in America, a judge intervened.

Your damn right, and check it out…this PLUB, author Dr. Tim Stanley, admits the agenda flat-out…

The genius of this strategy is that it has avoided the usual religious semantics by couching the prolife position in the language of “health and safety”. Republican lawmakers have insisted throughout that they are just trying to provide the best service for women seeking a termination. They don’t mean to restrict that service – it’s just that their standards happen to be very, very, very high.

Dr. Stanley, you can go shove that “genius strategy” up your anti-woman, anti-rights, christian right-wing extremist assssss.

There is a reason I posted this PLUB promoting crap, because the author makes one statement that is correct and true:

The strategy is starting to work in the US…

And this is the most frightening part of the PLUB agenda, it is working here in the US.

However, women’s reproductive rights are not the only rights we are still fighting for, what about that little thing called Equal Rights?  The shocking contempt for women’s rights [The reply] – latimes.com

How far have American women come since winning the right to vote in 1920? Eve Weinbaum and Rachel Roth addressed this question in an Aug. 26 Op-Ed, “Beyond suffrage,” bringing up issues that elicited backlash on our discussion board. Surprised by the reaction — in, ahem, 2011 — they offer this reply.

When we wrote “Beyond suffrage,” we didn’t think it was particularly controversial. Our contribution was to point out that 91 years ago Crystal Eastman laid out an agenda for change that can still guide women and men working for equal rights today.  We argued that women deserve equal pay for equal work, that the ability to decide whether and when to become parents is central to “freedom,” and that all forms of discrimination in the workplace and the public sphere should be challenged and dismantled.

The commentary this article received really proves that there’s a lot of jackasses out there who not only want to destroy a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body…they want to destroy women all together…they outright hate women.

…we were stunned by the vitriolic language from most of the commenters.  Their posts seem to fit into a few major categories:

1.  Women do not deserve equal rights.  Roneida said simply, “If the Creator had wanted women to be equal to men, he would have made them the same.” Several readers argued that women’s natural role is to take care of children, and that women should embrace their “difference.” On the other hand, one argued that “low-income/low-intelligence women have used welfare in the past as a ‘gravy train’ as they bear more and more children.” These readers seem to argue that white, middle-class women should have children because it’s their “nature,” while lower-income women and women of color should do the opposite.  One post says, “I’d suggest paying women of color $100,000 in exchange for becoming infertile.”

2. It’s women’s own fault that they are not treated equally.  EdmundSingleton objects to women on television with “streaking dyed hair, greasy lips, piles of eye make-up, in what can only be called the new clownish look.”  Others argue that women have all the choices they need:  “Ladies, if you want to make as much as men, you have a few options.  Don’t have children.  If you do have children, find an employer that offers appropriate childcare…YOU choose whether or not to have children, YOU choose who your partner is, YOU choose how far to go in your career.”  What these readers are missing is an understanding of structural change, instead focusing everything on individuals’ need to change themselves.

3.  Women are bad, and women of color and Jewish women are worse.  One reader objects to two Jewish women writing this piece, and another rails against “Jew broads” in the Senate and on the Supreme Court, along with “an illiterate Rican chick.”  Obviously we find these sentiments abhorrent, but it is important not to ignore the fact that they persist.

4. Women should quit whining.  One says, “Cries of ‘gender discrimination’ are just ways to explain away one’s personal shortcomings.” As touchdowntony said: “The women’s movement has done more than any other ideology to bring on the destruction of the family unit…Feminism  has brought about the distenigration (sic) of a society.” Lillyloo2you says, “We have come a long way so quit whining.”  And thanks to garryowen for this: “Blah, blah, blah.  Women are their own worst enemy.”  Many of the comments were personal (though none of the commenters knows anything about either author).  For example, one reader wrote, “Judging by your writing, you’re most likely to be an unmarried, obese, lonely cat lady.” Others commented:  “Just because you’re emotionally insecure in this big scary world, funding your life with a second rate job, doesn’t mean other women are just like you,” and “your whining duet makes me sick.” “You wanted equality, you got it, so stop crying poor pitiful me.”

After more than 55 readers had posted responses to our piece, one asked, “Why do I get the feeling of hatred in so many of the comments?”  I can only speculate that we hit a nerve among readers of the Los Angeles Times, especially among men.  As one of them says, “You are not the center of the universe.”  Another complains, “I’s all about how we can better the lot of females, and females only.”  Although none of them frames it in this way, these readers seem to be intent on holding onto male privilege — and white privilege — in any way possible.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, they maintain that no changes are necessary — in politics, in the home, in the workplace or in the economy.  Perhaps Eastman’s call to “arrange the world” to allow for real freedom is still too threatening.

Sick and utterly disgusting isn’t it? Well, I got something even more disturbing for you. It is difficult for me to understand how this mother and victim of domestic violence can find something hopeful in a recent human rights report: USA: Victim turned activist reflects on landmark domestic violence decision | Amnesty International

Local authorities in Castle Rock, Colorado knew that Lenahan, then Jessica Gonzales, and her daughters Leslie, Katheryn and Rebecca – aged 7, 8 and 10 – had long suffered domestic violence at the hands of her estranged husband Simon Gonzales.

But despite a court restraining order against Gonzales, police failed to respond to Lenahan’s repeated pleas for help – seven phone calls and a visit to the police station – after he arrived at their home unannounced on 22 June, 1999 and drove off with the girls.

Early the following morning, Gonzales drove to the Castle Rock police station and fired shots through the window, prompting a shoot-out with police that left him fatally wounded. After the gunfight ended, Leslie, Katheryn and Rebecca were found dead in the back of the truck.

Since then, US authorities from Castle Rock right up to the US Supreme Court have repeatedly denied Lenahan access to all the answers about how and when her daughters died, and she has never received any reparations for her suffering.

Lenahan tells Amnesty International that she wants to know the details of her daughter’s murders.

“I want them to tell me whose bullets actually killed my children, and where and when did they die?”

…While she feels that those questions may never be answered completely, the recent decision by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights gives her hope that she may finally see some positive change for others at risk of domestic violence.

In 2005 the US Supreme Court ruled that the police had no “constitutional duty” to enforce the restraining order against Lenahan’s estranged husband.  With the encouragement of her lawyer, Lenahan took her case to the next level, by filing a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

In August 2011, the IACHR published its report on the case, finding that US authorities “did not duly investigate the complaints presented by Jessica Lenahan before the death of her daughters. [They] also failed to investigate the circumstances of their deaths once their bodies were found.”

The Commission’s decision recommends that the USA examine how it fails domestic violence victims and enact comprehensive reforms at the local, state and federal levels to ensure that victims receive adequate protection from their abusers.

It is being hailed as a victory for domestic violence victims.

The report goes on to say:

“Authorities tell us that it is difficult for them to prevent violence. In this case they could have acted to save the lives of three children but chose not to. Let’s hope such decisions to ignore cases of domestic violence will never happen again.”

“US authorities at all levels must take notice of the Commission’s findings to ensure women and girls who suffer domestic violence are given adequate protection and victims are offered help and reparations.”

Perhaps it is a victory for victims of domestic violence, but Lenahan puts it into perspective…

“For so many years, women who are the victims of domestic violence have had the burden of proof,” said Lenahan.

“I’m a little bitter, but optimistic that this decision might be a way to help others.”

In the West Central African country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Electoral Commission is trying to get women to run for office. The idea is this…the key for women gaining rights…they need to become members of parliament.  IRIN Africa | DRC: Women politicians “key to promoting rights” | DRC | Gender Issues | Governance | Human Rights

KINSHASA, 2 September 2011 (IRIN) – Political parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo are struggling to recruit women into their ranks to run for parliament, despite a legal requirement to do so and a belief that greater numbers of female parliamentarians are critical to advancing women’s rights.

“We are going around meeting women, telling them to join our political party to represent us in the next parliamentary polls, but most of them are afraid,” Prince Bushiri, leader of the Citizen Alliance for Public Safety. “When we ask them what they fear, some will tell you, ‘I don’t like politics’, others will tell you, ‘I have to ask my husband’s opinion first’.”

Bushiri said only one out of 10 women invited to join the party accepted the invitation.

The Electoral Commission began registering candidates to contest for seats on 4 August. Parties that fail to persuade women to run for office on their ticket will be violating an electoral law designed to take gender representation into account when compiling a list of candidates. Small parties are especially concerned about their ability to comply.

However, even if those parties do not put women on the ticket, they still will be allowed to take part in the elections.

Many believe that an increase in the number of women in politics is crucial for the advancement of women’s rights in the country. Women in the DRC bear the brunt of ongoing conflict. A study prepared by the American Journal of Public Health in May 2011 found that 1.8 million women in the country had been raped during their lifetime, with 48 rapes recorded every hour during the study period from 2006 to 2007.

“Having more women in politics could reduce the suffering that women endure in areas marred by conflicts,” Gertrude Kitembo, DRC’s former Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, told IRIN. “A few years ago, President [Joseph] Kabila announced a zero tolerance policy against impunity, including crimes related to sexual violence, but it hasn’t changed anything so far besides a few cases of soldiers being prosecuted for violating women in eastern Congo. When there are more women in politics, especially positioned at the top of various institutions, they will use their influence to ensure that all those who commit sexual violence against women are brought to justice.”

But women who are speaking out against the sexual violence, are being targeted…

“A number of women have been raped for denouncing violence against women,” Justine Masika, coordinator of the organization, Synergies of Female Victims of Sexual Violence.

“A woman in our organization was raped on three occasions. The aggressors said that she was speaking out against violence against women when she herself had never been raped and that is why she should also be raped.”

How the hell can women in DRC fight this violence, or even aspire to become members of parliament when there is so much against them…

Educational barriers are also a hindrance; the new electoral law requires a candidate for a parliamentary seat to have a three-year university degree, which means many women do not meet the requirements.

The plan is to campaign for more women’s education opportunities and programs.

Perhaps a glimmer of hope can be found in the country next door to the DRC… Gretchen Wallace Empowers Women In Rwanda And Other Post-Conflict Societies (And just a note here, the tension, violence and distrust between Rwanda and the DR Congo, and vice versa,  is still very much part of the cultural landscape.  I am looking past that and seeing the situation in plain and simple terms.  These victims of violence are all women, without basic human rights, no matter what their nationality or ethnicity is. )

When asked about her personal and professional inspirations, Gretchen Steidle Wallace names neither an A-list celebrity nor a political figure but, rather, an unemployed and barely educated South African woman.

In 2004, when Wallace was researching the HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa, she befriended Zolecka Ntuli, a then-25-year-old woman who, despite having no job and virtually no access to funds, had launched a neighborhood support group to combat sexual violence in the area after a 12-year-old girl was assaulted by a group of teenage boys.

“Zolecka didn’t have the skills or the capacity to plan ahead for grants and funding, yet here she was, starting a dialogue about sexual violence against children in a region where [such matters were] still relatively taboo,” Wallace, 37, recalled. “I thought, ‘There must be women all over the world who have similar ideas for change. What if those women had more opportunities and resources?’”

Wallace formed a nonprofit organization called Global Grassroots, which helps support social change for women in Rwanda and other post-conflict societies.

Global Grassroots participants enroll in two-week-long programs where they are trained in what Wallace describes as “social entrepreneurship.” An additional 18-month work-study and apprenticeship component helps graduates gain “creative resourcing” skills — including designing a mission statement and how to “diagnose” a social issue — necessary to launching their own nonprofit operations on issues facing women and girls in their communities.

Since the organization’s 2004 founding, Wallace — who spends between two to four months each year in Rwanda — said about 300 “change agents” have completed Global Grassroots training programs, and some of them have since gone on to establish groups like Abanyamurava, or “Hard Workers.” Abanyamurava’s 19-member, all-female team helped start a clean water collection and delivery venture in Kigali, Rwanda, that is expected to soon reach 6,000 residents in an area where sexual violence is rampant.

Global Grassroots has a literacy program called “Let us build ourselves,” where they teach poor illiterate women how to read, write and manage money.  Wallace states that this knowledge is key for women to be able to progress from poor farmers, to managers of their own nonprofit.

Also critical to Global Grassroots’ success is the fact that Wallace and her colleagues see themselves as partners, rather than as leaders within the participants’ communities. “We’re here to try and facilitate, but not lead, these grassroots-initiated ventures,” Wallace said. “One of our core values is the participatory development paradigm … we never impose our values or viewpoints on them.”

…”I feel really lucky to be working in a realm that has so many success stories of its own,” she said. “We measure our impact on more than just our numbers … we look for transformation within the individual … and their community.”

For more information on this organization:  Global Grassroots – Conscious Social Change for Women

Well, I realize this morning’s reads is on the “thick” side…and a bit difficult to get through, like trying to climb up out of a pit of caramel and marshmallow sauce.

What sort of things are you reading about today? What do you think about  Global Grassroots?  Maybe the way to strengthen the social and cultural change for women in countries like Rwanda and DR Congo is through smaller programs and non-profits…that work to help the individual, just a few at a time, to achieve that paradigm shift.

Perhaps that is the same way to achieve women’s rights here in the US, and by that I mean full women’s rights…equal rights, reproductive rights, healthcare rights, victims rights, civil rights and human rights.

The days of the big women’s organizations…NOW seem to be a thing of the past.  Maybe it is time for a local grassroots program of our own…a way to reach out and help other women, just a few at a time.