International News


More than a dozen women in Central Maine are putting their sewing skills to good use by making face masks, which are currently in short supply due to the coronavirus pandemic.

June Cauldwell has been sewing since the seventh grade. She makes dresses, costumes and quilts from her Mount Vernon home, and as of this week, face masks.

“It just gives me a purpose in this time of being isolated from one another,” Cauldwell said.

Cauldwell heard about the short supply and growing need across the country.

What started as a simple idea just a few days ago, is now an organized effort with nearly 20 women at work.

“It’s very exciting because it kind of reminds me of women way back in World War I and World War II, when the soldiers needed socks and washcloths and they just started knitting and sending these things out,” Cauldwell said.

The masks have three layers of fabric, and are evolving to include a pocket that can hold a carbon or HEPA filter.

They’re bright, fun and reusable.

“They’re going to go to the rescue in town, maybe the fire department if they run out of masks,” Cauldwell said. “And this morning I had a request from midwives.”

Pat Rawson, the local rescue director, tells CBS 13 the department has a very limited supply of N-95 masks, so these are a huge help. Rawson said some of their members can use them, and they can also put them on sick patients.

Cauldwell is turning out about a dozen a day.

“We’re just going to be here making them and whoever wants them can have them,” Cauldwell said.

She said they won’t quit until the coronavirus does.

Brunswick residents ordered to shelter-in-place

“It may expand because other people want to make gowns, and they can,” Cauldwell said. “They can do anything. Just go to YouTube.”

If you can’t sew, you can still help by donating materials, like vacuum bags, or money so the women can purchase more.

To request masks, or lend a hand, contact Cauldwell at 207-931-8012 or

Source: WGME

Former Vice President Joe Biden committed to picking a woman as his vice president during a one-on-one debate with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during Sunday’s presidential debate.

“If I’m elected president, my Cabinet, my administration, will look like the country and I commit that I will in fact pick a woman to be my vice president,” Biden said. “There are a number of women qualified to be president tomorrow and I would pick a woman to be my vice president.”

It’s the first time Biden has said that he would pick a woman to be his vice president during the campaign as the veteran Democrat is on a major surge in the race, taking the lead over Sanders

The Vermont senator wouldn’t go as far as Biden in saying he would choose a woman to be his vice president, but said “in all likelihood, I will.”

Meghan Markle shocked a school in the United Kingdom with a surprise visit, asking the men to honor the women in their lives.

Prince Harry’s wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, visited the school Friday to offer an International Women’s Day message.

“You have your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, friends in your life, protect them,” she said. “Make sure that they are feeling valued and safe. And let’s all just rally together to make International Women’s Day something that is not just on Sunday, but frankly feels like every day of the year.”

The surprise visit took place at the Robert Clack Upper School in Dagenham in east London. The community was the site of famous strikes by female sewing machinists at a Ford plant, an equal pay fight depicted in the 2010 film “Made in Dagenham.”

In one of her final duties as a senior British royal, Meghan urged the boys in the school assembly of 700 students to “continue to value and appreciate the women in your lives and also set the example for some men who are not seeing it that same way.”

In February, a spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex told People: “The Duke and Duchess will be spending their time in both the United Kingdom and North America. In addition to continuing to work closely with their existing patronages as they build a plan for engagements in the U.K. and the Commonwealth throughout the year, the Duke and Duchess have also been undertaking meetings as part of their ongoing work to establish a new nonprofit organization. The details of this new organization will be shared later in the year.”

The Duchess of Sussex asked for a male volunteer to offer his thoughts on the importance of International Women’s Day.

Aker Okoye, 16, raced to the stage, greeting her with what appeared to be an air kiss to her cheek.

“She really is beautiful, innit?” he said as he took the podium. “I had to speak the truth there.”

Meghan gave him a hug and later praised his “incredible confidence.”

Source: Fox News

Appointment of six women in leadership posts represents highest percentage since end of the war more than 20 years ago.

Vjosa Osmani has a clear vision for how she and her government will run the country.

“Every single law that comes to the assembly should be seen through the gender lens,” said Chairwoman of the Assembly of Kosovo, Vjosa Osmai in an interview with Al Jazeera, less than a month after being elected as the first woman to serve as Kosovo’s speaker of the Assembly.

Osmani is among a new generation of politicians who have entered the political scene in Europe’s youngest nation, instilling hope that was lost during previous governments led by former Kosovo Liberation Army commanders and where corruption and nepotism ruled.

Besides Osmani, five women were appointed ministers of the Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Local Government.

The new government comes after opposition politician Albin Kurti, leader of the Self-Determination Movement (Vetevendosje) won the most votes to become prime minister.

Osmani was the centre-right Democratic League of Kosovo’s (LDK) candidate for prime minister, who came in second after Kurti.

“It was the first time that people were openly speaking up saying ‘we want women’,” said Igballe Rugova, executive director of the Kosovo Women’s Network network, which comprises more than 150 women’s groups and organisations that advocates on behalf of Kosovar women.

The appointment of these six women in senior leadership posts represents the highest percentage of women in government since Kosovo’s liberation and the end of the war here more than 20 years ago.

“They are women with experience. They are women with courage,” Rugova said.

Women’s groups and activists are hopeful about a new era of change for Kosovo’s 1.8 million citizens.

The Self-Determination Movement and LDK formed a power-sharing coalition after a snap poll following former prime minister Ramush Haradinaj’s resignation having been summoned by a war crimes court in The Hague.

Rugova expects that this new generation of women in government will finally address Kosovo’s pressing gender-based issues, such as domestic violence, health, unemployment, and education.

Around 18 percent of women in Kosovo are part of the workforce, according to Riinvest Institute, a think-tank in Kosovo – the lowest rate in the region and one of the world’s lowest rates.

Osmani believes this represents gender inequality and harms the economy.

“That is why the government programme, which we drafted together, focuses quite a lot in creating such conditions for women in our society to find a job and get economically empowered,” Osmani said.

Rugova and members of her network recently presented Osmani with a list of demands they hope she will address in her mandate, including allocating a permanent budget for shelters for survivors of gender-based violence, and parental leave.

Osmani said she will ensure that the national budget will always take into account for shelters to protect women and children who are victims of violence.

“I really have high hopes that the situation will start slowly to change concerning the development of the economy because, for me, development of the economy is the key to fighting violence, having better health, life and education,” Rugova said of the new government.

In the previous government, maternity leave was taken out of the labour law and put as separate legislation.

Amid reports of poor treatment relating to women who were pregnant or on maternity leave, the new government has said it will place 400 inspectors from the Ministry of Labour to report on discrimination. Previously, there were fewer than 10 inspectors for the whole country.

You will see us talking and fighting for gender equality, no matter what the topic in the assembly and in the government is.

Other issues include recognising survivors of rape from the Kosovo war and moving forward with their two-decade-old cases against the perpetrators. Until today, not a single perpetrator has been jailed.

“We have to work for justice. Same with the missing people – justice is so important in order to have peace,” Rugova said.

Rugova is referring to the more than 1,600 people still missing from the war and most likely buried in mass graves in Serbia.

The new minister of justice, 32-year-old Albulena Haxhiu, has already responded positively to these issues and has met with staff from Kosovo Women’s Network about gender-based violence.

“I felt like this is an independent government chosen by us,” Rugova said. “They are listening now and acting.”

For other feminists in Kosovo, there is still room for improvement.

“Of course, it is great news, it’s something we haven’t seen in the past governments. However, it is not where we want it to be and what we would like to see. Thirty percent sounds good but I think our aim should be equality, which is 50 percent,” said Eli Gashi is a sociologist, feminist and founder of Alter Habitus – Institute for Studies in Society and Culture in Pristina.

“It’s obvious that equality and justice are all over their political programme but it remains to be seen what they will do and hopefully they will address those issues; that the voice of women will not be muted by saying we place women in the parliament and that is where the whole thing ends.”

Osmani appears to be committed to bringing change and a fresh perspective to the government and for the citizens to regain trust in the institutions, especially the justice system.

“For example, when we talk about sustainable development, energy efficiency, air quality and right to access to clean and drinking water, we’re also contributing to gender equality because today one of the main worries of mothers, not just in Pristina, but elsewhere in Kosovo, is the horrible air quality, which is leading to thousands of deaths.”

Moving forward towards fulling her four-year mandate, Osmani realises the work that has been cut out for her and the new government but she will not give up in one important area.

“You will see us talking and fighting for gender equality, no matter what the topic in the assembly and in the government is,” she said.

“I want to tell everyone today you are either for children or against children when it comes to educational freedom and choice in education.”

So said Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, who spoke Thursday with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at the Conservative Political Action Conference about the need to bring more education opportunities to America’s children.

Conway said support for school choice is broad among the general public, yet a deep partisan divide exists on the issue, as the Trump administration has found.

“There is no ‘but,’ there is no excuse, there is no talk of ‘But the teacher unions …,’” she told the CPAC crowd. “You are either helping these brown and black and rural children get more opportunities, or you’re not.”

Choice in public education often is blocked by liberals at the state level who protect unions whose members work for badly run public schools, Conway noted.

Many children, DeVos said, are being “failed by schools that aren’t working for them, that aren’t the right fit.”

Trump is committed to ensuring that every child has access to a quality education, DeVos said, no matter where they come from.

She also warned about the problem of federal interference in education and touted the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce the government’s role.

“President Trump campaigned on getting rid of Common Core, which was a massive overreach on the part of the federal government,” DeVos said. “We’ve done that.”

Keeping power over education in the hands of states, local communities, and families is essential, she said.

“There’s too many people in this city [who think] that the federal government has the answers for everything,” DeVos said, referring to the nation’s capital a few miles away from the conference in Maryland. “And we know that’s not the case.”

DeVos promoted legislation, the Education Freedom Scholarship, that she said “would dramatically improve opportunities for more than a million kids nationwide.” She added:

This proposal is one that would create a federal tax credit in the form of scholarships to give rocket fuel to what states are already doing to advance choices and freedom in education.

We stand for freedom and opportunity, and we trust that parents and families are best to make decisions on behalf of their children, and the other side trusts the federal government to make these decisions.

She said the federal government long ago demonstrated that it can’t fix education from the top down.

Over the last 40 years, since the Department of Education was founded, we’ve spent over $1 trillion at the federal level alone with the express purpose of closing the achievement gap. Not only has it not closed and narrowed one little bit, it has actually gone wider in some measures and some communities.

CPAC, the largest annual national gathering of conservative activists, runs Thursday through Saturday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, just outside Washington.

Source: The Daily Signal

  • Several women ‘close to quitting SNP over gender recognition plans’
  • Concerns raised over law change that advocates say will reduce obstacles to trans rights

Senior Scottish National party MPs, MSPs and councillors have expressed concerns about proposed changes to gender recognition laws as they launched a pledge calling for women to have the right to discuss such policies.

Several women at the launch for the SNP women’s pledge said they were close to quitting the party because of what they considered to be a refusal by officials to address concerns that women and girls could fall victim to predatory men or lose access to single-sex services.

Speaking on the panel, the anti-Brexit campaigner Joanna Cherry said she had faced significant abuse online for raising concerns. While she said this came from “a small minority of people”, she said the controversy raised broader questions about how the party did business.

“There are serious questions about how we develop policy in the SNP and how we conduct debate,” she said. “It’s important to disagree – we could do with more disagreement at times – but it has to be respectful.”

Cherry said she saw no conflict between signing the SNP’s official Out for Indy pledge, which supports transgender rights, and the women’s pledge.

At the private meeting, which took place on Sunday night in the city centre of Aberdeen, where the SNP conference is taking place, some attendees spoke about being labelled transphobes for raising concerns, to the extent that they felt “pushed underground”.

The SNP MSP Joan McAlpine, who also spoke on the panel, said: “These women don’t feel welcome currently, but I think it’s really important that we stay in the party and indeed look to work cross-party. We must be able to talk about this and if we could then we might find common ground.”

In June the Scottish government postponed an update of the legal rights of trans men and women, which planned a simpler, quicker process to allow people to get a new gender recognition certificate through self-declaration rather than requiring medical evidence. Additional consultation is under way.

Advocates for a law change say making the process of acquiring a gender recognition certificate less intrusive and bureaucratic, for example by removing the requirement for medical evidence, will benefit transgender individuals without having any impact on services available to women.

Transgender rights groups point out there is already an absolute commitment from the Scottish government to consult more widely on the changes, which has been welcomed by LGBT organisations, and that potential unintended consequences should be discussed openly.

The SNP leader and first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has previously stated she does not see “the greater recognition of transgender rights as a threat to me as a woman or to my feminism”.

The meeting on Sunday, which also heard from Margaret Lynch, the founder of Glasgow Rape Crisis, the SNP councillor Caroline McAllister and Rhona Hotchkiss, a former governor of Cornton Vale women’s prison, was arranged privately.

Hotchkiss said the meeting, attended by about 60 invitees, had made her optimistic. “I think this will have an impact because we’re the first political party to come out saying women have the right to discuss these issues without being threatened or abused. This has stopped me from leaving the party. When you see a group of people together like this it gives me hope.”

The pledge, which has already been signed online by more than 1,800 people, also states that women “have the right to maintain their sex-based protections as set out in the Equality Act 2010”. It adds: “Women have the right to refuse consent to males in single-sex spaces or males delivering intimate services to females such as washing, dressing or counselling.”

Responding to the launch, Fiona Robertson, the SNP’s women’s and equalities convenor, said: “Members are free to set up interest groups on whatever they want. A feminist pledge is a great idea, and certainly one which official equalities representatives have been considering, seeing the success of the Out for Indy pledge in helping show the appetite for inclusion and equality in the SNP. Any pledge would have to be concise, clear, inclusive and in line with law and party policy.”

Source: The Guardian

The study, published on Wednesday in The Lancet – an influential peer-reviewed science journal – was carried out in Ghana, Guinea, Myanmar and Nigeria, and found that 42 percent of the 2,016 women observed had experienced physical or verbal abuse, stigma or discrimination during labour and childbirth. 

According to WHO, quality support, particularly from midwives for women in labour, can make the difference between life and death. Midwifery has been shown to reduce maternal and newborn mortality and stillbirth rates, by over 80 per cent, and reduces pre-term labour and birth by 24 per cent. Yet, more than 800 women still die every day during the process. 

Younger, less-educated women were found to be most vulnerable to mistreatment, in the form of stigmatization, discrimination, undergoing medical procedures without consent; the use of force in procedures; or abandonment or neglect by health workers.  

Some 14 percent of women experienced physical abuse in the form of being slapped, hit or punched, while others experienced non-consensual caesarean sections, and episiotiomies (surgical cuts to the vagina during childbirth) and vaginal examinations. 

Interviews were also conducted with 2,672 women after giving birth, which indicated similar levels of mistreatment. 

Researchers observed 35 cases of caesarean births conducted without the mother’s consent, along with 190 of 253 episiotomies reported, and 2,611 vaginal examinations, comprising 59 per cent of the total. 

Some 752 (38 per cent) of the women in the study experienced some form of verbal abuse, whether being shouted at, scolded or mocked. Eleven women were targets of discrimination or stigma, on the basis of their race or ethnicity. 

Strategies for prevention

The health agency recommends a framework of strategies to ensure women are treated with compassion and dignity – from holding health systems accountable, to ensuring enough resources are available for quality health care and clear policies on women’s rights: 

  • Designing labour wards bearing in mind the needs of women. 
  • Improving the informed consent process around medical interventions. 
  • Up scaling mentorship and support to health workers to foster quality care. 
  • Allowing all women the right to a companion during labour and childbirth. 
  • Building public demand for quality maternity services, which does not tolerate mistreatment or abuse. 

WHO has urged professional associations to partake in promoting and supporting quality care among maternity providers, from obstetricians to midwives.  

Last year the agency put forward recommendations on intrapartum care, highlighting the importance of a woman-centered approach in optimizing expecting mothers’ childbirth experiences. 

An integral part support in fast-tracking progress toward achieving universal health coverage (UHC) is the quality design of maternal and newborn health, in line with SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) 3, the target to ensure healthy lives and well-being for all. 

Source: UN News