United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced today that former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet will be the first head of the new UN agency, UN Women. Bachelet was elected the first woman president of Chile in 2006. As President, she fulfilled a campaign promise to institute a gender-balanced cabinet. She first gained visibility and popularity in Chile as minister of health in 2000, when she revamped Chile's public health system by instituting 24-hour health care to cut waiting times that had previously been as long as three months. In 2002, she was appointed Chile's Defense Minister and was the first woman in a Latin American country to hold the post.
Charlotte Bunch of the Center for Women's Global Leadership at Rutgers University, told the Canadian Press, Bachelet "has shown an ability to bring women's rights and gender perspectives onto mainstream agendas, which is one of the challenges that we've been working for since the last U.N. women's conference in Beijing in 1995."
The UN voted unanimously in July to create a new office on women to be called the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). Official operations of UN Women will commence in January 2011. UN Women consolidates four formerly separate entities within the UN that work for the advancement of women: the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI), and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). The UN has estimated that UN Women will have a minimum budget of $500 million, which is twice the budget of all four former organizations combined.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .