Tereza Heinz Kerry was the main carrot for an event with the National Council for Research on Women yesterday. Unfortunately she had to cancel.
Speakers (apart from Heinz Kerry) were Jehmu Greene, President of RocktheVote, Julianne Malveaux, economist and author, and Noeleen Heyser, the head of the United Nations
Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
Around 6000 delegates have brought women's issues to the UN in New York this week for a gathering called "Beijing plus Ten" which is to review and appraise the Beijing UN declaration on women from 1995. The event yesterday wasn't directly linked to Beijing or the UN but the timing was deliberate.
The topic for the event was women and improving the rights and life conditions of women. The speakers shared their life stories and experiences working for women's rights.
Julianne Malveaux was full of choice quotes.
On Aids, and women in the developing world she commented on the way women are often skipped in inheritance when their spouses die. In other words, "the dead man's brother comes and takes all the stuff," said Malveaux, admitting there must be a more eloquent way to put that.
On how women are paid minimum wage for caregiver jobs, she shares a joke with her elderly mother about how she is going to send her to an old folks home. "Don't send me anywhere where staff are paid minimum wage," says the mother, "I don't want sisters with an attitude moving me from the bedpan to the bed."
On social security, Malveaux said: "I'm always suspicious when people who have never cared about black people suddenly do," she said referring to the Heritage Foundation who advocate privatisation of social security claiming it will benefit low-income citizens.
Jehmu Greene from RockTheVote had some interesting facts on women in her briefcase. Out of 15,000 "street leaders" RocktheVote sent out during the 2004 US presidential election 75% were young women. They polled 115,000 young people who voted and learned that women vote on "issues" and men don't (they haven't figured out what makes men vote yet).
On how to get more women from poor areas involved in political issues, Jehmu, shrugged off pamphlets on billboards, community papers, and even the internet to some degree. The most effective form of communication that doesn't have "class bias" she said, "is text messaging" on mobile phones.