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About Jessica Reed

Jessica Reed was participation editor for openDemocracy between November 2006 and February 2008.

Articles by Jessica Reed

This week’s front page editor


Sunny Hundal is openDemocracy’s social media editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Sukkar Banat: sweet like candy

Shortly after the downfall of the Taliban regime, the media relayed many stories illustrating the great liberties given to Afghan women by democracy: their newfound ability to drive and go to school, their right to not wear the burqa and bizzarely, the establishment of beauty parlours.

The price of activism

Last month Roja Bandari blogged about Iranian women's rights campaigner Jelveh Javaheri as part of our 16 Days Against Gender Violence coverage. Jelveh had been summoned to court and taken to the Evin prison on the charges of disrupting public opinion, advertising against the system, and publishing lies.

Jelveh and her colleague and journalist Maryam Hosseinkhah were finally released on bail last week - meaning their activities will be restricted until they go to trial. Both were members the One Million Signatures Campaign. [more...]

Roja Bandari tells us that "two other activists, Ronak and Haana, are still in custody in Kurdistan region and we are very concerned about their conditions".

Elsewhere: Reporters without borders' take on the case, pictures of Maryam and Jelveh at World Picture News, and an interview with Jelveh conducted before she was arrested.

Week 2 - another collection of links

Healthy discussion: In the fantastic sex education site Scarleteen (which I personally can't recommend enough for teenagers and young adults), Heather Corinna writes about rape with boys (and men) in mind:

"Those articles about rape prevention telling women all they can do to prevent rape? This isn't one of those articles. This one’s for the men."

A global generation of women: Imagining ourselves is an online multimedia project ran by the International Museum of Women, full of stories, photographs, films and much more. A true gem.

Women fighting violence: MADRE lists 16 ways women are fighting against violence

Feminist men: The concept makes some feminist bloggers raise their eyebrows at the mention of a "feminist men's blog", but here's one - Feminist Allies blogs 16 days.

A call to men: an men organisation working on ending violence aginast women. To read: 10 things men can do to end VAW. Shakesville's blogger Melissa comments on it.

Any links you want to share with us? Please post them in the comments... 

16 days, week 2: a selection of links

- Take back the tech: one of the campaign's daily contribution to "16 days" is the fascinating Who males history? Something to bare in mind: historical invisibility is a form of violence against of women, whose legacy to the world has been erased or conveniently not recorded and/or celebrated.

"The field of science and technology is particularly steeped in the culture of elevating ‘father figures’. Think of all the notable names in computing, and chances are, you’ll come up with Bill Gates, Richard Stallman, Steve Jobs, Charles Babbage, Alan Turing etc. It’s less likely for us to know names of women such as Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Betty Holberton, Kathleen Antonelli and more, who also played critical roles in the expansion of knowledge and innovation in this field".

- Interview with Imam Cheick Mohamad Diallo: Every Day a New Battle against Circumcision in Mali (via

"The religious authorities must change their views, otherwise our education efforts will never succeed. I myself have been excluded from the Association of Imams since 2000, because I called circumcision non-Islamic in a televised sermon. This exclusion persists today."

In pictures: Reclaim The Night 2007

 Jessica Reed
Last Saturday hundreds of women took the streets of Soho, London, to demonstrate against sexual violence. You can view a flickR set of the night's pictures here.

The first march took place in 1977, and has been organised by the London Feminist Network since 2004. It reportedly had 1200 participants last year. Lacking the ability to accurately count the number of people in a crowd I wouldn't dare estimate how many women demonstrated this year, but the result was impressive (the streets surrounding Trafalgar Square and Soho were temporarily closed, dozens of police officers escorted the participants and dozens of curious bystanders took pictures with their cell phones).

Courage in journalism

This week the International Women's Media Foundation awarded its "courage in journalism" awards to eight nominees: Lydia Cacho from Mexico, Serkalem Fasil from Ethiopia and six journalists from the McClatchy Bagdad Bureau in Iraq (NYT link).

This is Sahar Issa's speech, who accepted the award on behalf on her colleagues (via the IWMF'S site):

Can we untie the global gag rule?

[quote]"None of the funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortions as a method of family planning or to motivate and coerce any person to practice abortions.

None of the funds made available to carry part I of the Foreign Assistance Act may be used to pay for any biomedical research which relates in whole or in part, to methods of, or the perfomance of, abortions...

None of the funds made available... may be obligated or expended for any country or organisation if the President certifies that the use of these funds by any such country or organization would violate any of the above provisions related to abortions" [more...]

Abortion as a human right: the case of Karen Noelia Llontoy vs. Peru

Abortion as a human right

A lot of the speakers at the Global Safe Abortion Conference addressed the right to safe abortion as a human right.

Luisa Cabal, director of the Center for Reproductive Rights' International Legal Program, underlined the fact that human rights are a universal language, a common ground to build on, and a tool for governments to save women's lives. [more...]

Anti-choice tactics: from manipulation to extremism

An eternal clash

Upon our arrival at the conference at an early 8.30 in the morning we were greeted by a group of anti-choice women silently picketing the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, holding a huge banner stating that "women deserve better than abortions" (ironically enough, my colleague Jane Gabriel remarked that the banner was folded in such a way that at the right angle it read "women deserve better abortions"). I was also handed misguided pro-life leaflets stating (amongst other things) that Marie Stopes was racist. [more...]

Medical abortion: a revolution for women's reproductive rights

Dr. Hilary Bracken, Senior Program Associate with Gynuity Health Project, opened the session titled "Ensuring Women's access to medical abortion in their own communities" declaring that medical abortion (the abortion pill, or RU486) is the most important revolution in women's medical health since the commercialisation of the contraceptive pill. [more...]

Gender based violence linked with reproductive rights and HIV/AIDS

A lot of the breakout sessions organised by the Women Deliver conference focused on AIDS/HIV treatment and prevention for women and girls, and how it should be treated as an integral part of the fight for reproductive rights for all women, everywhere.

One of the most important and recurrent issues underlined by speakers is that the spread of HIV/AIDS is directly linked to gender based violence, especially in unstable regions where rape is used as a weapon of war, or where women have to sell their bodies as a means to survive and provide for their families. [more...]

Women Deliver

I am currently at "Women Deliver" in London's docklands, a strange setting for this, the first global conference in 20 years which aims to combat maternal mortality. So far Douglas Alexander, the UK's Secretary of State for International Development, has pledged to give $200 million over five years to the United Nations Population Fund to tackle the health of women and mothers worldwide. You can read the press release here. [more...]

Your pictures on openDemocracy

The Tower of Big Ben, Westminster, London, 13:11, 10 October 2007
Picture by John Perivolaris

You might to hear about the new openDemocracy FlickR group, which we will use to pick pictures for our frontpage. This is a chance for oD readers to have their own pictures used on our site - and be credited for their effort. [more...]

A scripted feel for China's 17th Communist Party congress

This week Beijing is hosting the seventeenth Communist Party congress - an event gathering more than 2,200 party members from across the country. openDemocracy published an analysis of the global relevance of the event, in which Kerry Brown underlined the challenges which the new generation of leaders will have to face as China elevates its economic status to the third largest economy in the world. This problem was also picked up by The International Herald Tribune blogger Daniel Altman who remarked that "training new generations of regulators, business people and planners is a process that can’t easily be accelerated" and that changing culture is a long, difficult and complex job. [more]

New platforms, old tricks

Yesterday Amnesty UK launched its "unsubscribe me" campaign, which aims to use social media networks to unite a new generation of human rights campaigners. Their hope is to set up a viral virtual campaign gathering as many names as possible from participants saying "I unsubscribe from torture, rendition, discrimination and unlawful detention".

In other words, Amnesty wants to be down with the kids and reach out to a young(er) audience using social network-inspired platforms to spread their message. [more...]

Blogging Burma

Yesterday was International Bloggers' Day for Burma, so the day after is a good moment for oD Today to look at the range of voices gathered in support of the democracy movement inside and outside the country. We at openDemocracy support the free circulation of information, debate and reporting that blogging Burma (much of it by Burmese living in exile) represents, and as we have tracked the unfolding story in Burma we have also published several items about the political crisis: [more]

50.50 blog

Welcome to the 50.50 blog. Here you will find ongoing discussions involving men and women concerned with gender parity, as well as reports from conferences, news and commentary. Blogs which are also part of our 50.50 initiative:

In 2007, openDemocracy covered the G8 process from a women's perspective. This blog gathers contributions from women across the world, writing about what they would like the G8 to adress.

The first international conference of the Nobel Women's Initiative took place in Ireland in June 2007. The openDemocracy team live-blogged it.

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. openDemocracy observed the process closely.

The 7th World Social Forum brought the world to Africa as activists, social movements, networks, coalitions and other progressive forces converged in Kenya. Patricia Daniel blogged live from Nairobi.

France: DNA test for future immigrants

The new amendment of an immigration related bill, which is set to be observed by the French parliament today, is creating furore amongst scientists and the activist sphere: it would allow French authorities to incite immigration candidates to provide a genetic test proving their blood-relation to a French citizen (or immigrant with a valid French visa). Candidates would have to pay 1000 Euros for it - an equivalent of 750 Pounds ($1494). [more...]

From the Forums - A world without the West

openDemocracy members are having a lively and interesting conversation on the forums, trying to imagine a world without the West.

Will there be a convergence to the stereotypical American way of life running in parallel with the economic empowerment of countries like India, China and India, or will we find ourselves starring at a profound cultural and religious gap separating our two (or three or four...) different worlds? Some excerpts: (more...)

Participative democracy: The People's Tribunal

openDemocracy has published a lot of material on deliberative democracy - including on this blog, which last year extensively covered the European Citizen Consultations.

But what about a participative people's tribunal? A few weeks ago I was forwarded details about the People's Tribunal on the World Bank Group in India - a participative initiative aiming to provide a just forum for people who have suffered because of projects and policies funded or promoted by the World Bank Group; the Tribunal is an opportunity to express their grievances and propose alternatives (more...).

From the Forums

openDemocracy forum members discuss nuclear power in light of the UK government's online consultation titled The Future of Nuclear Power (related documents here). Richard Lawson links to an interesting page underlining the many reasons why nuclear power does not provide an answer to global warming (duh). [more...]

Bloggers making TV smarter, one blog post at a time

It's no secret that mainstream media often raises an eyebrow (or two) when discussing bloggers and their contribution to news publishing. After all, it took respectable publications and national newspapers years before some of them reluctantly adopted blogging, and even longer for TV channels to mention the thriving and booming political blogosphere on air. However, the relationship between the bloggers and news professionals still remains blurry, tainted with a mix of competition and patronising comments: established journalists look down on bloggers' 'lack of objectivity', while Internet writers voice their discontent by criticising mainstream media's lack of credibility (1). {more...}

Sexual violence as a weapon of war

Last Tuesday the UN Security Council approved the use of a hybrid armed force in Darfur, hoping it will help to bring a sense of stability in the region. The resolution also grants the use of force ("necessary measures") to the UN soldiers who will be in charge of securing the region by protecting and assuring the circulation of humanitarian workers, stoping the attacks and threats towards civilians, and encouraging the peace process in Sudan. (more...)

Reclaiming Feminism(s): Gender and Neo Liberalism

This month the Pathways of Women's Empowerment blog will focus on Reclaiming Feminism(s): Gender and Neo-liberalism, a conference held in Brighton on July 9-10, which also kickstarted the ongoing relationship between Pathways and openDemocracy. Many conferences will be held throughout the year, with (but not exclusively) participants from the 5 Pathways hubs, located in Egypt, Bangladesh, the UK, Brazil and Ghana.

The conference gathered around 40 academics and activists from Africa, South America, the Middle East, Asia and Europe.

Launching the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment / openDemocracy Blog

The Pathways of Women’s Empowerment / openDemocracy blog brings together academics, policy makers, activists and journalists concerned about gender and power. As part of our 50.50 initiative, and along with a series of articles and podcasts on the Pathways project, the blog aims to provide a space for the many diverse views of women and men campaigning for greater gender-related justice worldwide.

The Pathways of Womens Empowerment RPC is a DfID funded research and communications programme linking academics, activists and practitioners to find out what works to enhance women's empowerment. You can visit the website and find out more here.

Pathways of Women's Empowerment

by Jessica Reed

To kickstart our collaboration with the Pathways of Women's Empowerment consortium (as part of our 50.50 initiative), we are launching our brand new themed blog, an article and a podcast. Enjoy!

Pathways podcast and article

In our first podcast, Jane Gabriel talks to Dr Hania Sholkamy about gender and empowerment in Egypt, and the challenge of engaging with global feminism. Click on the image below to listen now.

You can also read our opening Pathways articles; Andrea Cornwall on moving beyond "development-lite" and Srilatha Batliwala on reclaiming empowerment for the women's movement.

Patriarchy: beyond gender?

During lunch I found myself chatting with a couple of participants when the topic of the male experience of patriarchy came up. While a lot has been written about the relationships between men and women and between women and women, the topic of men vs. men power dynamics within a patriarchal society remains rarely talked about. Strangely enough, there is little doubt that men suffer from a system of patriarchy too.

Women's resistance vs. feminism

Is it fair to label any form of women's resistance groups as atoms of the global feminist movement?

Josephine Ahikire was intrigued by the wording surrounding women's resistance and feminism, and how it systematically separates the two. In her view, what a woman resists is mediated by her situation, which is itself affected by gender, class, employment or poverty issuses - so by definition, it is about feminism.

Ahikire cited as a case study the Aba women's riots of 1929, part of Nigeria's struggle against colonialism: was this an act of feminism? Josephine argued that the gendered nature in which those women experienced colonialism and how they organised resistance made it a feminist act.

Sign of the Times

Cecilia Sardenberg shared a very telling story about a meeting taking place in Brazil - a progressive country by all accounts- in which a government representative spoke for two hours at a conference about gender and political dialogue, but mentioned the word 'women' maybe twice. As Srilatha Batliwala underlined, it is a worrying trend which speaks volume about the current situation: men in politics don't even feel the use to be politically correct anymore.

Magic Bullets

"Magic bullets" is the name for several forms of action in the gender field which can come across as a magic band-aid that will fix everything. Two of them are micro-credits and women in politics, and according to many women at the conference, they need to be questionned.

Take micro-credits for example: it is now presented as a solution which enables women to single-handily solve all their issues by creating their own micro-businesses. In reality, this is not entirely true (see our related entry written by World Neighbours on the openSummit blog), as the power of decision is still held by those who loan women funds. Without a complete control over their capital, these small communities of women are not empowered, but reliant on micro-crediting.

Feminism: appropriation and concepts slippage

A lot of skepticism linked to feminist theory steams from the lack of practical initiatives inspired by the second and third wave movements. Josephine Ahikire, senior lecturer in Kampala, would agree with these criticisms: she explained her love and hate relationship with a movement she thinks is often too abstract.

Sure enough, development agencies and individual countries do have gender policies - but they have yet to be really efficient. Their themes are distorted and do not make way for actual changes in women's lives which are not yet fully understood by bureaucrats and other UN agencies. In her words, 'the world is listenning, but the distortions are overwhelming'.

The Development Lotto: redefining buzzwords

One of the main concern shared by the participants was that feminist thinking has been appropriated by the global process, its meaning transformed wrongly along the way. Concepts like 'empowerment', 'agency' and 'good governance' are being disconnected from reality and used to further the neo-liberal agenda. Kalpana Wilson underlined that recenly the notion of women's agency has been elaborated within the framework of a neo-liberal model of development, which does not address women's needs and does not recognise the multiplicity of feminisms across borders and countries.

Who said feminists were not fun?

Cecilia Sardenberg

If one thing wasn't missing from the conference, it certainly was humour. The 40 participants might have been holding PHds in gender and development, gender studies and history, but it certainly did not seem to prevent them from being refreshingly silly, making (feminist) jokes and puns, very much to our delight.

After all, the conference started with Cecilia Sardenberg, leader of the Brazilian Hub, exclaiming: "In 2004 we talked about "repositioning feminism". In 2007 we are reclaiming it!".

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