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feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

April-20-01

What News Looks Like When Women Matter: Profiles of Rita Henley Jensen and Victoria Graham of Women's Enews - Part III

We covered the economic reforms, abolition of the communes and so on. Female infanticide was and still is a serious problem.

As it is in many developing countries, women are the poorest of the poor. This is true in China, in India, in Africa, in many other places. Boys get better food. Boys get the medical care. Boys get the school uniform. Boys are the ones who go to school, if anyone goes at all; their sisters are far less likely to receive schooling in developing countries.

In India I covered three of the world's top ten stories in my first year, 1984: The siege of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the riots that followed, and the Bhopal poison gas leak. Of course there are many important stories about women, women activists.

Women's Enews did a story about women-run grass roots justice courts in the far western state of Gujarat, pre-earthquake. Many women are intimidated by the police and the justice system because they are subject to abuse and intimidation. Rape of Indian women by the police is not uncommon. And to get into the formal justice system and pay a lawyer is too costly for many women and men.

So, very, very low-income women, many of them illiterate, started learning about the law and organized this informal justice courts, based on the law but using mediation. And dealing with domestic violence, dowry deaths, inheritance, divorce, adultery and so on. These courts are accessible and won the respect of the population. A very positive story.

SS: What are some of Women's Enews most significant stories?
VG: We did a story about disbursement of anti-trust settlement from the Nine West shoe retailer—money to women's groups nationwide. We broke the story. It was a case of enterprise and dogged, investigative journalism. Before the deadline for comments on the proposed disbursal, we wrote about inequities and alerted many women nationwide to often capricious awarding of funds. Some of them to anti-abortion pregnancy crisis centers where, we have been told, many women are intimidated into maintaining their pregnancies. We produced a chart showing how each of the 50 states planned to distribute funds.

We also reported early that the New York State Legislature had dropped a women's health bill that would have mandated coverage for contraceptives, mammograms, Pap smears, etc.—under pressure from conservatives who objected to the reproductive rights provisions. The legislature set up a committee to study if women really needed these things. But it saw fit at the 11th hour to adopt a bill expanding coverage for prostate cancer screenings.

We have covered the furor over civil unions in Vermont—and upcoming is an update and look at civil union legislation nationwide.

We detailed conservatives and President Bush's efforts to kill OSHA regulations on ergonomics -- and why such laws are especially neceSSary to protect women.

On the lighter side, we wrote about the new Rosie the Riveter Memorial in Richmond, Calif., and efforts by the old Rosies and their daughters to build an association and share their empowering experiences.

SS: How do you find the news for Women's Enews? Do you often get scoops?
VG: The Nine West story was a scoop—we were queried by women's groups nationwide and some states' attorneys general. We emphasize original reporting and enterprise—all our articles are original. We don't publish others' stories. We were the first to publish a commentary criticizing the bashing of Katherine Harris, Florida's secretary of state, by Caryl Rivers of Boston University.

We have many sources: We read the papers, we are close to the news. Stories need to be topical, with a news peg. Our radar is always turning. Our friends and free-lancers suggest stories. People suggest stories, our friends and writers. We are on women's list serves and idea

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