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About Grace Davies

Grace Davies is new media editor at the BBC World Service Trust. She was managing editor of openDemocracy.

Articles by Grace Davies

This week’s editor

Alex Sakalis, Editor

Alex Sakalis is associate editor of openDemocracy and co-edits the Can Europe Make It? page.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

"Protection is the least we can give"

On Tuesday this week, London's Trafalgar square was transformed into a temporary "refugee camp" by the UNHCR in an awareness raising initiative to highlight the ongoing situation in Darfur, which saw similar scenes in 20 countries across the world. Zrinka blogged earlier this week about her own unexpected reaction to the exhibition. The hope is that the day-long camp had an impact on those who know nothing about Darfur, the UNHCR or refugees in general, the "absent majority" as Jenny put it in an earlier post.

A “networked journalism” future?

In a very timely piece published on openDemocracy today, Charlie Beckett offers some useful insights on "networked journalism" that I think are worth bringing in to this debate. Beckett, of the Polis journalism and society centre at LSE has a book out Supermedia: Saving Journalism So It Can Save The World and argues that new tools of communication and forms of journalism can have a huge impact on the public sphere and democracy itself.

MigrantVoice on refuge

Asylum is a subject that is rarely out of the headlines in Britain. Immigration, a constant topic of debate in Westminster. But increasingly, a space for informed, open debate of the relevant issues has been squeezed out by widening divisions leading to a "toxic stand-off".

At openDemocracy we believe that debate changes minds, changes policy and ultimately leads to change in practice. With this as our goal, we will be running an editorial project, MigrantVoice on refuge to bring unheard voices, new ideas and testimony of the lived experiences of refugees in Britain to the attention of our readership and into the public debate during Refugee Week (16-22 June 2008).

Darfur: no redress for rape

A Human Rights Watch report released yesterday delivered a stark reminder of the ongoing crisis of sexual violence in Darfur, and of the need to step-up pressure on the Sudanese government and international forces to address the problem effectively.

Enough: tackling sexual violence in eastern DRC

A new report aiming to protect women and girls in eastern DRC argues that policies to prevent sexual violence be closely linked to established and ongoing conflict resolution and peacemaking initiatives already underway.

One day of life: a Romanian odyssey

Cristian Mungiu's portrait of a young woman's illegal abortion in Ceausescu-era Romania makes humane and moving art from its bleak subject-matter, says Grace Davies.

A Bird’s Eye View

Now in its fourth year, Bird's Eye View is a London-based international film festival celebrating women filmmakers from around the world. Ten days of documentaries, new features, workshops, retrospectives and short films showcase the best new work by female directors. And in an overwhelmingly male-dominated industry, it is much needed. With a few notable exceptions such as Sofia Coppola and Mira Nair, the female director is - or is thought to be - a rarity. The packed programme of this year's festival gloriously proves otherwise.

Parvin Ardalan banned from travel

Last month, this blog along with many others celebrated the award of the prestigious Olof Palme prize to Iranian women's rights activist Parvin Ardalan. Now, just a few weeks on, Ms Ardalan has been denied a right to travel abroad. On her way to Sweden yesterday to accept the internationally recognised award, she was detained by security officials before the plane could leave. Ardalan explains: "(Officials said) I was banned from travel and that I could not exit Iran. They also seized my passport."

Manila's women fight for justice

Women's access to family planning advice and contraception is widely acknowledged as a universal human right, yet in many countries around the world, contraception and abortion services are restricted and, in some cases illegal. We have previously covered the global crisis of unsafe abortion and its daily toll on women's lives in this blog, and highlighted obstacles to change such as the United States' "global gag" rule.

Taking on Tesco: women and economy in a globalised world

Internationally lauded microcredit schemes, avid consumption of "throwaway" cheap fashions, $2 shampoos, and a minority of 'high-powered' women business executives. These all formed part of an energetic discussion on women's economic empowerment chaired by the IDS pathways of women's empowerment RPC yesterday, a theme also due to be addressed as part of the UN Commission on the Status of Women kicking off at the end of this month.

Amongst the group of women experts gathered by IDS, the clearest tensions came between an individualistic need (for control over own income and expenditure) and the goal of a collective, structural framework of empowerment. As Takyiwaa Manuh explained, in Ghana the microcredit model is attractive and indeed vital for poverty-stricken women in asserting control over their lives, yet there is an accompanying danger that the institution itself fosters a belief that such a scheme is "all you need". Effectively, "problem solved".

This is of course not the case, as Santi Rozario has written elsewhere on openDemocracy, and discussion of cultural, political, emotional, social and bodily empowerment peppered the talks. Gender equality and justice can never be achieved in just one sphere of life. However, a focus on economic issues does allow room for exploring the complexities of working for gender equality in a globalised world.

Tensions between the formal and growing informal economies, international corporates and State powers, and a rapidly changing economic context along these lines highlight the global challenge.

The extent of private sector interest and investment in gender-specific issues worldwide is part of this transformation. We learned of innovations such as Unilever's recruitment of networks of women traders in Africa and Asia. (They also established the frankly hideous iVillage network in 2000). Wal-Mart too faced a sex-discrimination lawsuit in America back in 2004, and has since learnt its lesson. Bluntly, women are big money as both producers and consumers, and they are no longer ignored.

As a consequence of this interweaving, the current global credit crunch will have a huge effect over the coming years on the millions of women employed - directly or indirectly - by corporate powers. The global operations of these corporations are simultaneously dis/empowering for women. The challenge is to find the "points of leverage" to enact change - such as ActionAid's support of a South African woman farm-worker in 2006 to buy a single share in Tesco in order to attend the AGM and present her case on unfair pay and conditions.

Sarojini Thakur reminded us of the need not to write off State responsibility completely - the transient nature of markets, and the capitalist objectives of the corporates leaves no room for the kind of social protections essential for the emancipation of women worldwide. Furthermore, the support of fragile states to engage with both corporate powers and more dominant states, is key. Other neglected issues included the role of migrant workers - over 50% of whom are now women - and the importance of land and property rights and the care economy.

The targeting of women as both consumers and producers - demonstrated most strikingly in the "cheap fashion" industry - by corporate powers underlines the need for women's rights activists and campaigners to act now or risk being left behind.

Such a transformation must offer windows of opportunity for campaigners to advance women's rights and opportunities, the challenge, listening to the ideas yesterday, is in realising those opportunities and acting now.

Iranian feminist magazine under threat

This blog has previously featured writing from and about women in Iran, in particular the inspiring One Million Signatures campaign. It is therefore with sadness that we received the following news from Nayereh Tohidi of California State University about the revocation of the license of the Iranian feminist magazine, Zanan. Nayereh writes:

Dear colleagues and friends,

As you might have already heard, on January 28, 2008, the Press Supervisory Board of Iran backed by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has announced revocation of the license of Zanan magazine, Iran's most prominent and important feminist journal.

Domestic violence - missing the point

Listening to the news last night, I was struck by a particularly depressing story - that of a British woman beaten to death by her boyfriend in August this year. Just one day after the official 16 Days Against Gender Violence campaign ended, news of yet another tragic and preventable death. The case was raised in the UK parliament, but, it seems, for all the wrong reasons.

Justice for Cambodia - Khmer Rouge trial

"It's a big day ... the spotlight's on Cambodia". So said Peter Foster, spokesman for the Cambodian genocide tribunal, on hosting its first public hearing today. Kang Kek Ieu, or "Duch", former head of Tuol Sleng jail in Phnom Penh, and "alleged chief torturer" of the Khmer Rouge is the first former leader of the regime to be charged by the court. The UN-backed tribunal was finally set up last year following years of political and financial wrangling.

Clandestine abortion providers

Sexual abuse by doctors, inflated prices charged by providers and high rates of suicide as a result of unwanted pregnancies were just some of the experiences raised by some amazing individuals providing clandestine abortion services around the world.

Global safe abortion: the world in London

This week, London played host to the world's first international conference on safe abortion. 800 delegates from over 60 countries around the world attended, and openDemocracy was there to report, speaking to advocates, practitioners and campaigners.

In these first blog reactions, Jane Gabriel reports on the scale of the problem, one woman's amazing work in Ghana, and says it's time to break the silence on gender and power. Jessica Reed investigates the medical abortion revolution, anti-choice tactics, and abortion as a human right. Plus: crossing borders for abortion and the inspiring work of clandestine providers.

Crossing borders - abortion journeys


The plight of the many women having to undertake long, distressing, often expensive journeys in order to gain access to safe abortion due to restrictive legislation in their home countries was the focus of discussion on day one of the conference.

A spoonful of sugar...

Going to a screening of Michael Moore's Sicko last week, I was in two minds - does the world really need another Moore "shockumentary"? What was I going to learn other than that in America, you pay?

A bit more than that, as it turns out. In Sicko, Moore puts the US health care system under the microscope. His main attack is on the country's Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs), and the willingness of those on Capitol Hill to hand over the reins to the Insurance and Pharmaceutical industries. It's clear the system is rotten, he says, and must be overhauled.

The openDemocracy Quarterly: can you help?

Can you help us reach your organisation or community with our new quarterly publication?

Syrian internet activists jailed

Amnesty International yesterday reported the jailing of seven student activists and a beautician under two separate articles of the Syrian penal code after calling for peaceful political reforms online. Sentenced to between five and seven years for allegedly "taking action or making a written statement or speech which could endanger the State or harm its relationship with a foreign country...", their story is unfortunately an all too familiar one.

The imprisonment of Shi Tao in China and Abdel Kareem Suleiman in Egypt are just two other high profile cases reflecting a worldwide struggle for freedom of expression online.

'His Dark Materials,' Philip Pullman

"An epic trilogy unlocking the door to a world of daemons, magic and wonder..."

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