How do women best influence the political agenda?
by Jessica Reed
The launch article of our “Women talk to the G8″ was published yesterday on openDemocracy.net. In her column “Merkel’s G8: spot the difference”, Patricia Daniel sees the German chancellor at the top and asks: how do women best influcence the political agenda?
When Germany’s first woman chancellor Angela Merkel hosts the G8 summit in June, it will be the first time a woman leader has done so since Margaret Thatcher in 1984. Even an objective observer has got to find that a little bit staggering. Although Merkel has committed herself to a more collaborative style of leadership, like many women who rise to the top she’s a right-wing politician and has not chosen to champion women’s cause. In terms of political outcomes it remains to be seen whether the fact that she’s a woman will make any difference at all.
However, for the first time, gender equality has somehow slipped onto the G8 agenda. German civil society activists can claim credit, not only for including a focus on women, but also on Africa – which Merkel belatedly added to her dual G8 and EU presidency plans in October 2006.
Read the entire article here.
We're not obliged to accept the world's definitions
by Bev Clark, manager of Zimbabwe’s civic and human rights website kubatana.net
Without access to information women from all walks of life experience an impoverished existence fraught with a variety of serious challenges and risks. One way or another, for the last 20 years much of my energy has been spent addressing this problem.
For a long time I produced a newsletter for the gay and lesbian community in Zimbabwe. Back in the late 80s we were considered daring and provocative as well as improper for including explicit information on the subject of HIV/AIDS. The fact that an isolated and marginalized community could access information materials developed specifically for them was very important especially because we live in a country where the authoritarian government either denies the existence of homosexuality, or criminalizes it.
During the time that I edited the gay and lesbian newsletter my offices were raided by the police. About 8 of them arrived with their search warrant, swaggering in and claiming that I was housing pornographic material. This was simply because the material was homosexual in content. After rifling through every drawer and cupboard they eventually left with their “evidence” – a booklet listing worldwide gay, lesbian and bisexual support groups.
Since then, as both a gay and political activist, I’ve spent many nights making my own bonfires. Burning materials which are informative, useful and inspiring, yet which the authorities would seek to harass me for. I’m angry about this. I’m angry because gay and lesbian people shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed, or be made to hide who they are and what they read.
In an old copy of one of our newsletters there’s a piece of writing by Maya Angelou that I’d manipulated in attempt to contextualize her writing for our Zimbabwean environment:
She heard the names,
swirling ribbons in the wind of history:
dyke, queer, pig, homo, poofter, lesbo, faggot,
But my description cannot fit your tongue, for
I have a certain way of being in this world,
and I shall not, I shall not be moved.
I wonder if the G8 has made any attempt to include sexual orientation in their policies? Even if they did, it would have very little effect in reducing the intolerance and hate of Robert Mugabe who has clearly stated that he believes that homosexuals don’t have any rights at all. When I think of the G8 I think of a bunch of men, self-satisfied in their suits and their power-giving statesmen-like speeches which sound really good but couldn’t be more empty.