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pack information

HALF THE POPULATION (Pack pages 1 - 4)



What women have been saying
Being a mum as well as a scientist
A feminist viewpoint
India's silent revolution


Guerrilla Women
A Woman's Influence
Women In The Armed Forces
Annette's letter
Martha Gellhorn : death of a fearless reporter
Women Reporting War


Standing up to be counted
Greenham Common

Healing Wounds
Keeping Going
Women Writing About War

Hawks and Doves: Protesting for East Timor
Bianca Jagger
Aung San Suu Kyi
Mary Robinson

1. What Women Have Been Saying
Leena, educational worker in Africa:
'If money is given to women, it's generally used for better nutrition, better clothing, and the welfare of the household. If it's given to men, it tends to go on electronic goods, or maybe a new bicycle, or on alcohol and other things that don't help the family.'

Ask yourself: Are there situations like this where you live?

UK women MPs:
Harriet: 'In the 21st century women's working lives will include working part-time, full-time, different shifts, term-time work only, job-sharing and re-training.'

Barbara: 'The future world of work will be very different. It will be about self-reliance and economic independence.'

Ask yourself: what do you hope for women's work in the 21st century?

Kathy, a journalist visiting Arabia:
'In some countries, such as Tunisia, women have equal rights and a vote. But in Saudi Arabia women are forbidden to travel or drive alone, and men and women can't work together in the same rooms. In Qatar women can get a good education - but it's hard for them to have a career other than teaching.'

- and women from Kuwait:

In May 1999 the Kuwaiti government approved the Emir's draft law giving the vote to women (who are half the 800,000 population and a third of the work-force). Massouma, a professor and feminist activist, said: 'It's a great feeling to get something that you've been deprived of'. Seham, a senior female executive (one of the few in Kuwait), said: 'I hope the next parliament will approve the order, so Kuwait can achieve a real democracy, not just a democracy for only half of society'.

But in December 1999 the all-male parliament did not approve the new law. The votes were 32 to 30. Laila, a Kuwaiti writer, said: 'I can't feel we failed - the vote was so close. I'm sure our supporters will try again'.

Ask yourself how YOU would work to support women's rights in your country.


2. Being A Mum As Well As A Scientist
'Most women who really succeed in science either never married or, if they married, did not have children,' said UK biologist Nancy, who had children but took hardly any time off to be a mother because 'I had a unique job and I would never have got it back'.

Nancy has taken a leading part in finding ways to help women scientists not to lose out when they have families. One project is named after the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom: Athena. The Athena project aims to increase, by the year 2007, the number of women in top science and technology jobs. Employers can be tempted by funding for women's research posts, for example; and a register of qualified women can be publicised where it counts.

Trusts can also be set up to fund re-training for those women who have taken more than three years away from their jobs in order to bring up children. One woman engineer was away for over ten years; recent re-training has helped her back into a research post, her studies fully up-to-date. 'One of the mega changes has been the use of computer modelling rather than practical work,' she said. 'It's been incredibly stimulating learning the new stuff - you realise how much of your brain you haven't been using!'

Discussion: How does the argument 'job versus family' look to you? Should there be a conflict at all? What should men be doing to help? And what do you think their children's rights are?


3. A Feminist Viewpoint
Sheila is a leading historian and feminist activist. She grew up in Leeds in the 1950s, and studied at Oxford University.

She was recently asked if she thought there would still be wars if women ran the world. 'If women were running things, then they also would have changed. They would have had the experience of power. They wouldn't be the same women after that.'

What about equality for half the population? 'I find it hard to see how the struggle for equality is going to succeed. It seemed more possible in the 1970s than it does now. Society has become MORE unequal. It's happening globally, too, between rich and poor countries. Women are having to unite in the struggle to protect themselves from poverty.' It looks, Sheila says, as though we're shaping up for an equality of unfairness, in which 'some men and some women do well but lots of both men and women don't do well at all.'

Discussion: What do YOU think? Can women handle power (think of Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir; think of Gro Harlem Bruntland, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mary Robinson) better than men, or do they have to behave like men themselves? Is the 'unfairness' many men may experience the same as the 'unfairness' many woman may endure?


4. India's Silent Revolution
Shaban Azmi, film star and member of India's Parliament, is optimistic. This is what she has written:

'To a Western eye, Indian women may look pretty subservient, but within the space of the kitchen, for example, they are unquestionably the rulers. Now they are negotiating for more space outside the domestic domain.

When Gandhi mobilised people during the freedom struggles, women walked shoulder to shoulder with the men. But when we had the first parliament in 1950, only 4% were women. Fifty years later, it's still only 8%: we women have been actively kept out of politics by men who feel threatened by ambitious women.

But there is a silent revolution taking place. India is the first country in the world where there is a 33% reservation for women at local council level. That's changing things: they're discussing development issues, talking about water, health, hygiene. For too long, solutions to all problems have been provided by the male mind only.

The Indian male believes power is rightfully his. But India is a unique country because the people encapsulate all the contradictions that come from being multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic. There is a constant conflict of tradition and modernity, and every single person has to deal with this within themselves - men and women equally.'

Discussion: What are your views on women politicians? Could they influence world peace?
Activity: Find out more about women in India, and about the situation of Indian women elsewhere, if possible in your own community. Write, talk, and improvise drama about what you discover.


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