Dems Court Women; U.S. Aid Misses Mark



Following 2008 Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson's declaration that Hillary Clinton is not the only women's candidate, others have pledged allegiance to the feminist cause. Richardson, the New Mexico governor, launched his Women for Richardson campaign, and said that he will improve family leave policies and support pay equity, the Associated Press reported July 17.

“This is not an issue of women being a special interest. Women are the majority in this country,” Richardson said. “What I'm doing here is addressing the interests of the majority.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Clinton, former Sen. John Edwards-represented by his wife, Elizabeth Edwards-and Sen. Barack Obama promoted their positions on reproductive health care at the Planned Parenthood conference held in Washington, D.C., on July 17. Clinton said that President Bush “has played politics with women's health” and that she would devote her first day in office to reversing such policies as the “global gag rule,” which restricts foreign aid to groups that deal with abortion issues. Elizabeth Edwards proposed expanding women's access to health services requiring insurance coverage of abortions and other reproductive health services, the Chicago Tribune reported July 18.

While Obama also agreed on a similar health care plan, he focused his speech on the proposed Freedom of Choice Act and using the term “pro-choice” to include family planning issues such as improving pay equity, paid paternal leave and work-life balance, and extending school hours so parents may work and not worry about their children. All four candidates are committed to appointing Supreme Court judges who would uphold abortion rights.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • After organizers of Seattle's All Nations Cup-a city soccer tournament and cultural celebration-found fewer than 100 women to participate this year, Brazilian native Luanda Arai interviewed immigrant women about the limitations they face in playing soccer and wrote five monologues, “Women Can't Play.” Five actresses representing different parts of the world will perform Arai's monologues during the All Nations Cup, where more than 1,000 men on 12 teams representing 41 countries will compete, the Seattle Post Intelligencer reported July 12.
  • President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and female lawmakers in Liberia are pressing for a measure to increase female representation in government positions to 30 percent, the Monrovia Inquirer reported July 17. Currently, the Liberia parliament is 15 percent female. The Women Legislature Caucus was also launched in order to promote peace and stability in the nation and improve the socio-economic welfare of women.
  • Turkish activist Pinar Ilkkaracan has received the Gruber Foundation Women's Rights Prize, along with two organizations she helped establish, Women for Women's Human Rights and the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies. Ilkkaracan has trained women in Turkey in legal literacy and worked toward reforms in the nation's family and penal laws. The prize includes a $500,000 award.
  • Janice Reals Ellig, a Women's eNews 21 Leader for the 21st Century 2007, was elected as the first female board chair of the YMCA of Greater New York since the organization's founding in 1852.
  • Sajani Shakya, worshipped as a living goddess in her native Nepal, has been restored to her status, the Independent reported July 20. Shakya, 13, was stripped of her title for being impure after she broke tradition and traveled to the United States to promote a documentary; the filmmaker made a trip to Nepal to help smooth the controversy over.
  • Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rep. Louise M. Slaughter introduced the National Women's Rights History Project Act July 19. The bill proposes to designate a historic route linking sites in upstate New York that are significant to the suffrage and women's rights movements, expand an online database for women's history and offer financial and technical support to women's history programs.
  • A bill to decriminalize abortion in the Australian state of Victoria would correct an inconsistency in regulations, the Age newspaper reported July 17. In Victoria, abortions are only legal to protect the life or health of the pregnant woman, and the bill would prevent prosecutions of doctors who perform first-term procedures. The bill has been met by resistance from the Victorian government: only a quarter of Upper House members have privately expressed support for it.

For more information:

Women for Bill Richardson:

Hillary Clinton, Champion for Women:

Planned Parenthood, Prevention First Agenda:

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The United States government sent $623 million in foreign aid to 16 of the world's 20 countries with the highest child marriage rates, USA Today reported July 17, including Bangladesh, Mali and Mozambique. About 51 million women between 20 and 24 years old were married before they turned 18, and 100 million more will become child brides in the next decade.

A congressional bill proposed by Rep. Betty McCollum, Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Chuck Hagel, aims to limit U.S. aid to countries where girls as young as 12 are forced to marry, a practice most prevalent in West Africa and South Asia.

Meanwhile, a report from the World Bank found that donor nations are falling short in providing assistance to family planning and reproductive health efforts, Reuters reported July 18. The report warned that losing sight of the consequences of overpopulation and the value of contraception, family planning and health programs will impact economic growth in the developing world.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • About 8,000 U.S. female veterans are currently homeless due to delayed aid from the Department of Veterans Affairs and a lack of affordable housing vouchers, the Christian Science Monitor reported July 18. A female veteran is four times more likely to be homeless than a female civilian. As more women return from duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, there continues to be a lack of women-specific counseling and shelter services in most states and services are nonexistent in others. The VA operates 11 programs for homeless female veterans and said last week it will give $12 million in grants for new programs serving the elderly, women and mentally disabled.
  • A recent Minnesota Health Department study found that the state's 61,000 sexual assault cases in 2005 totaled $8 billion in costs resulting from loss of work hours, medical and mental health care, victim services and criminal justice cases. Of that, $6 billion was associated with victims' pain and suffering, and $280 million for health care. State officials hope the study will spark a public dialogue on sexual violence.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives has approved an increase in funding for abstinence-education programs for fiscal 2008, the AP reported July 19. The bill also provides $152 million in funding for Title X family planning services. An amendment to specifically prohibit federal funds for Planned Parenthood clinics was eliminated from the final budget proposal.


Pratibha Patil was elected president of India July 21. Patil is from India's ruling coalition and the post is primarily ceremonial; she won despite her involvement in a banking scandal that was revealed during the campaign.

Jacqueline Lee is a Los Angeles-based reporter interning with Women's eNews and Nouhad Moawad is managing editor of Arabic Women's eNews.

Women's eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at [email protected].