Saturday, November 08, 2014

UN Secretary General no longer fit for purpose after he insults women by ignoring UNSCR 1325.

It's time for women (and supportive men) to call for Ban Ki-Moon to step down as UN Secretary General - he seems to have passed his 'sell-by' date and is no longer fit for purpose. On October 31st, 2014, the very day of the 14th anniversary UN Security Council Resolution 1325 calling for women to be equal participants in peace-processes Ban Ki-Moon established a High-Level Independent Panel to re-think Peace Operations. He appointed fourteen members: eleven men and three women! This week-end let's remember - in the the middle of World War 1 women very nearly managed to negotiate an end to the war. In 1915 female delegates from the Hague Congress travelled to meet top statesmen in London, Washington, Berlin, the Hague, Copenhagen, Vienna, Paris, Petrograd, Berne, Budapest, Oslo.The two delegations of 13 women included British Chrystal Macmillan (see pic), American Jane Addams, Dutch Aletta Jacobs, Hungarian Rosika Schwimmer. 'The belligerents said they wanted to cease hostilities but could not ask for mediation as this would infer they were losing militarily.'...'Meanwhile thousands of men went 'up the line' to their deaths, as if they had no individual lives of their own but were merely cogs in the war-machine.'

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reeva Steenkamp, Pistorius, Evening Standard

This was my letter in today's London Evening Standard. Yesterday in South Africa a man was sentenced by a Judge to serve a sentence that is predicted to amount to around 10 months in prison followed by Community Service. Was his crime a minor burglary or persistent shop-lifting? Nope. He killed a woman. Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead by her boyfriend Oscar Pistorius on Valentine's Day in 2013. Statistically speaking, Steenkamp was one of three women killed by an intimate partner on Valentine's Day in the country. In South Africa, a woman is killed by domestic violence on average every eight hours. The rate of women killed in South Africa by their partners, is five times higher than the global average. According to a report (by Lydia Smith , International Business Times Sept 11 2014) the day after Reeva Steenkamp was killed, she was due to wear black in a "Black Friday" protest against South Africa's high number of rapes. The event was spurred by the gang rape and murder of a 17-year-old girl, who managed to identify her attacker, her ex-boyfriend, shortly before she died. Earlier this week a man called Kon Karapanagiotidis (@kon_K) tweeted ’57 women killed this year by men in Australia. No one killed by terrorists. When do we declare war against violence against women.' Precisely!

Monday, August 25, 2014


FYI - worrying stuff: UK - WOMEN, ESPECIALLY LOW PAID WOMEN, ARE SHUT OUT OF ANY ECONOMIC RECOVERY - NEW RESEARCH 1 August 2014 - New research released by the Fawcett Society shows that women – and especially those on low pay – are firmly shut out from the recovery. Direct Link to Full 21-Page 2014 Report: The new report - The changing labour market 2: women, low, pay and gender equality in the emerging recovery’ - includes analysis of national employment data [2] and a survey of 1,003 low paid women [3]. Key findings include: - Since the start of the crisis in 2008, almost a million (826,000) extra women have moved into types of work that are typically low paid and insecure. Since 2008, female under-employment has nearly doubled (to 789,000) and an additional 371,000 women have moved into self-employment, which is typically very low paid. 1 in 8 low paid women now describe themselves as on a zero hours contract. - The increasing levels of women in low paid work, along with the declining value of low pay, is contributing to the widening inequality gap between women and men. Last year the gender pay gap increased for the first time in five years and now stands at 19.1 per cent for all employees - Low paid women are feeling the cost of living crisis sharply: nearly 1 in 2 say they feel worse off now than five years ago; nearly 1 in 10 have obtained a loan from a pay day lender in the last twelve months; nearly 1 in 12 low paid women with children have obtained food from a food bank in the past twelve months

Friday, December 13, 2013

Royal Jordanian Airlines - Golden anniversary? They kept passengers trapped without food and information for over 7 hours.

Yesterday (December 12) Royal Jordanian Airlines brought disgrace to their country. Jordan's national air-line behaved in exact contrast to usual Jordanian courtesy and hospitality. Royal Jordanian kept us sitting on a plane for seven hours on the ground at Amman, Queen Alia Airport without food or information. The Airbus was packed with British and Middle East passengers of all ages including children. The flight from Amman to London should have taken just over 5 hours. We boarded the Airbus soon after 11.30am. Seven hours later we were still sitting waiting for take-off. After some hours, in desperation a female passenger fetched water and plastic glasses from the galley and walked down the aisle serving the passengers with water herself. The cabin crew served passengers no food – not even a packet of nuts. Throughout much of the 7 hours the Captain kept the seat-belt lights switched on. This resulted in angry clashes between cabin attendants passengers who needed to go to the lavatory – especially elderly people. During the first seven hours of our twelve hour ordeal we were left uninformed about what was happening. The Captain only bothered to make two announcements in the first seven hours. After two and a half hours at around 2.30pm the Captain announced our flight had jumped up the queue of planes waiting to take off and we would be departing in five minutes. Not true. Four hours later we were still sitting there. We heard no more information from the Captain for a further two and a half hours, by which time we had been sitting five hours on the plane. He finally admitted there was a technical problem with the plane and told us we would be transferred to another aircraft. He said we would be transferred in twenty minutes time. Around 45 minutes later we were taken by bus to another aircraft. Where we waited at least another hour. I am a frequent air traveller – I have travelled to 91 countries. I can appreciate that poor weather conditions such as yesterday’s snow can cause delays. I also understand that occasionally planes have mechanical problems which need to be fixed. But nothing excuses keeping a passengers on a crowded Airbus on the tarmac for seven hours without food or information. As part of their Golden Anniversary events Royal Jordanian Airlines need to train their pilots and cabin attendants in passenger care and communication skills.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Syria. Damned if we do and damned if we don't. Men have messed up the region...

#Syria. Everyone will damn the West if we intervene and damn the West if we don't intervene. I am glad I am not a world leader today. It's a no win situation for everyone including and above all for the Syrian people. The end solution will have to be political. We have seen in Egypt, Libya etc what a mess the men have made of the region. This time the international community should comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the subsequent related UN Resolutions and the equivalent European Parliament Resolution and ensure that in Syria at least 40% of participants in all peace talks at all levels and any interim Governments are women - there are plenty of capable women from the region in civil society. Whoever is responsible for ordering use of chemical weapons and for any other war crimes including rapes should be indicted and brought to the War Crimes Tribunal. Assad has no place in Syria's future.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

CIOJ Journalists rap Ofcom over plans to stifle regional news.

The Chartered Institute of Journalists has condemned plans to reduce regional news output on ITV as a “total betrayal” by Ofcom of viewers around the country. I am a Fellow of the CIOJ and as someone who lives outside the London metropolis I wholeheartedly support the CIOJ protests at plans to stifle regional news. Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, has approved what the Institute says are “dramatic reductions” in the length of regional lunchtime and late evening bulletins, and agreed that the early-evening round-up of the day’s news can now include ten minutes of events from outside the region. The Chairman of the CIoJ’s Broadcasting Division says the planned cuts take coverage of news in the regions to a new low. Paul Leighton – a long-serving BBC producer and former Radio 2 newsreader - commented “Viewers at weekends will see the 10 minute regional slots reduced to a paltry five minutes and lunchtime output more than halved. “As a regulator, Ofcom was put in place to protect the interests of the consumer – the viewer – not to pander to an industry which made £464m pre-tax profits last year and still has the gall to plead poverty.” Leighton said he welcomed the broadcaster’s plan to revert to greater localisation by operating 14 regions rather than the 8 to which it was reduced in 2009. “But with such a major reduction in the length of bulletins, the exercise looks suspiciously cosmetic. “If Ofcom won’t do its job as a regulator, perhaps it’s time the job was given to an organisation that will!” Note to editors: Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Egypt's latest Constitutional Declaration leaves out rights of women.

Egyptian women demand their rights. At the height of the revolutions men welcomed women as partners in the struggle for democracy. But once the dictators were ousted, men pushed women out of the picture. It's happening all over again. Absence of women's rights and equal opportunities was one of the main reasons for refusing the 2012 constitution that has been temporarily suspended yet the constitutional declaration issued on July 8th 2013is just as bad. It steers clear of any articles concerning women's issues and their right to equality. I just received the following from an Egyptian women's NGO. 'In spite of the continuity of women's powerful participation in the protests of June 30 and their strong presence in different public spaces in governorates of Egypt, the majority of official discussions have witnessed a lack of women’s participation and have also failed to raise or address women's issues, despite the dense participation of women in protests that were called for by "Tamarud" or the "Rebel" movement as well as different political forces for example, since day one. This happened regardless of what women and girls paid as a price for their taking part in demonstrations and their gathering, particularly in Tahrir square, where they were exposed to the most violent sexual assaults, amid ferocious negligence from those responsible for calling for the demonstrations from parties and revolutionary groups. This is one of the main indicators in analyzing the vision of the authorities regarding the importance and the kind of participation of women in public life. We see that one of the most important forms of political equality that should be implemented immediately includes forming a gender-balanced government and to t embark on the next phase with expanded definitions and wider applications to the concept of women's participation in the political process, so that they become a part of the discussion and decision-making process, and to genuinely reflect the wide female participation on the popular level, on diverse political levels, instead of reducing women's participation in the political process to a symbolic gesture or some decorative criteria that needs to be met. Thus Nazra for Feminist Studies demands two things: First: Fair participation of women in decision-making positions throughout the next phase. As such, there is an urgent need in having various ministries headed by women professionals in different fields of the government, the formation of which is currently being discussed. In addition, women must participate in the committee for constitution amendments which would grant greater gender representation of women and their issues. Women must also take part in the efforts being made in restructuring the security apparatus and the judiciary; all of which are steps which should start as soon as possible. Second: Acknowledging and integrating women's political, social and economic issues in the transitional period in order to grant comprehensive understanding of women's reality in Egypt, as well as avoiding discussing women's issues individually, as if separated from wider societal interactions; listening to their demands as well as holding those who committed crimes against them accountable. -- Position Paper- 12 July 2013 Exclusion of Women in the Political Process and the Constitutional Declaration Should be Treated Immediately… Political Forces and those Leading the Transitional Period Need to Integrate Women in a Fair and Equitable Manner within the Roadmap of June 30 e. Nazra for Feminist Studies . نظرة للدراسات النسوية website . twitter . facebook -- To unsubscribe from Nazra Mailing List, please reply with “unsubscribe”.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Is Gezi Park Turkey's Tahrir Square? Women may be the weather-vane.

In May, Turkish women’s rights activist Efsa Kuraner e-mailed me from Istanbul, “Things are fast going down the plughole, it’s pretty depressing. The Islamic twist is becoming suffocating with how the Prime Minister keeps trying to cajole women to stay home and have 3-5 children. They are offering early retirement to women for having upwards of 3 kids..!! Divorce is frowned upon. Abortion is all but banned. Only there in name. I am afraid darker days are yet to come.” Her predictions were prescient. A peaceful protest by Istanbulites against plans to chop down ancient trees and transform the city's public park, Gezi Park, into a large shopping mall has erupted into a far wider protest. BBC reports say the unrest has spread to 60 cities and towns across Turkey, including the political capital Ankara and popular tourism centers of Bodrum, Konya and Izmir. In my travels around the world I have noted how attitudes towards women are a pretty accurate weather-vane indicating what is happening in the wider politics of a country. In visits to Turkey in the past three years I saw rising anxiety about razor-sharp divisions between the secular and those who want a society where women “breed” for their country and wear the hijab.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Margaret Thatcher. Women in Politics. Edward Heath. Sir Bernard Weatherill.

(CNN) -- When it came to promoting other women in politics, Margaret Thatcher was a disappointment. In fact, her main legacy for women was that she was a woman holding the position of prime minister for 11½ years.
My son was 5 years old when Thatcher first won election as prime minister, the first woman to do so. By the time she left office, he was a young man of 17. He didn't remember a country with a male prime minister.
Lesley Abdela
Lesley Abdela
As a feminist and women's rights campaigner who opposed many of Thatcher's policies, I am still trying to work out how I feel about her. As prime minister, Thatcher did almost nothing to promote women's rights actively, but at the same time, an entire generation grew up assuming it was normal to have a woman as prime minister. For my full article  go to :

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

International Women's Day - a record year for Women MPs according to the IPU - Quotas and PR electoral systems.

Lesley’s International Women’s Day Letter. 

There have been oodles of depressing news this past year for women so let me give you a few reasons to celebrate.

Good news! 2012 was  a year of higher than usual level of progress on women’s election to parliaments. I have been tracking and promoting women’s progress in parliaments globally for over 30 years because I am convinced this is the key to democratic transformation and to every aspect of progress for women’s rights and equality,  including addressing violence against women.  Progress never feels fast enough, but it is moving in the right direction.

According to a new Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) report, in   2012 the global average of women in parliaments rose to 20.3 per cent, up from 19.5 per cent in 2011. This is nearly double the usual annual rate of increase. 33 lower houses of parliaments and 17 upper houses reached the 30% threshold necessary for women parliamentarians to have an impact on decision-making. This is more than triple the number 10 years ago.

Countries  with the highest electoral gains for women MPs in 2012 elections? 

The three countries with the highest gains of women MPs in 2012 were:  Senegal (42.7% women MPs), Timor Leste (38.5%) Algeria  (31.6 %).  All three countries used legislated quotas for the first time.


The high percentage of women elected in Senegal, brought Africa’s regional average for women MPs up to 20.4 per cent. Sub-Saharan Africa now has four parliaments in the top ten world rankings of women in parliament. Senegal’s 2012 elections were the first to be held since the adoption of a gender parity law in 2010. It requires that all candidate lists for legislative, regional, municipal and rural elections comprise equal numbers of men and women candidates, with men’s and women’s names alternated. Non- compliance with the gender parity requirement disqualified parties from the electoral process. In addition to enforcing the law, the government and women’s organizations conducted a large-scale public awareness campaign and training sessions for women candidates.

In Sierra Leone, voters showed they were more progressive than the political parties.  According to the Media the 15 successful women scored the highest percentage of votes in the elections, beating all their male counterparts and illustrating that political parties may not be as supportive of women candidates as the electorate. The 10 parties had all agreed to seek more women candidates as part of a drive to increase the proportion of women lawmakers from less than 20 per cent in the outgoing parliament to at least 30 per cent, but the parties chose only 38 women out of their 586 candidates.

Arab countries

Algeria is the first and only Arab country to have more than 30% women in a region which  has so far failed to deliver on the promise of democratic change for women in the Arab Spring countries of Egypt and Libya and which continues to have the lowest regional average –13.2 per cent.  


In Asia  too there were notable successes in women’s parliamentary representation. . Timor Leste (up 10.8 percentage points) and an increase of 9.6 percentage points in Mongolia.
Asia is the slow and steady tortoise in the race, but at least the figures are moving in the right direction. The regional average increased by 3 percentage points from 15.2 percent in 2002 to 17.9 percent in 2012.


Women made a few advances in Europe in 2012.  Due to quota legislation  the percentage of women in the Serbian parliament increased from 22% to 32.2% and in France from 19% to 27%.  European countries have made improvements over the past 10 years. The region now has an average of
23.2 per cent women MPs, up from 17.4 per cent in 2002.
The Americas
The Americas, have the highest regional average in the world. (24.1%,).  In 2012 a record number of women were elected in Mexico, El Salvador Jamaica and the United States of America (USA. ).  In Mexico the percentage of women elected leapt from 26% to 37%. The USA, where women now account for 18 per cent in the House of Representatives and 20 per cent in the Senate, saw an unprecedented number of women candidates. Nevertheless, the USA jumped only one place in world rankings from 78th to 77th in 2012.

Lessons identified? Quotas combined with a PR Electoral system,

IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson says,

“Although quotas remain contentious in some parts of the world, they remain key to progress on a fundamental component of democracy - gender parity in political representation. There can be no claim to democracy without delivering on this.”

9 out of the top 10 countries with the highest increase in the number of women MPs in their lower house of parliament used quotas and had a proportional representation (PR)  electoral system.

7 out of the 9 lower houses of parliament with a decrease in women MPs did not use quotas.     Where no quotas were used, women took just 12 per cent of seats, well below the global average.

22 of the 48 countries holding elections last year used quotas. Where quotas had been legislated, women took 24%  of parliamentary seats; with voluntary quotas,  women they took 22% of seats.

Quotas need to be accompanied by sanctions for non-compliance and women candidates should be placed in winnable positions on party lists. Political commitment to including women’s parliamentary participation is also a must.

PR Electoral system

It is easier to use a quota system with a PR voting system than with a first past the post system. In addition PR delivered a much higher percentage of women MPs (25%) in 2012 than first-past-the-post (14%) or a mixture of the two systems (17.5%).

Statistics Source