A Message From The Creator: Happy 4Th Of July

A Message From The Creator: Happy 4Th Of July

Inspirational Woman Of The Day: Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel

Inspirational Woman Of The Day: Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel

Women & Politics: Women, This Election Is About You

Women & Politics: Women, This Election Is About You

A Message From The Creator: Happy 4Th Of July

Americans in strength unite
This union born in freedom’s light

United States, how sure we are
We’ll pull together, near and far

The world can see of what we’re made
Each state is of the highest grade

Determination, filled with pride
Our people’s will won’t be denied

Our founding fathers set to stay
The road we’ve traveled to this day

A quest for right cannot be wrong
With help from God, we will stay strong

Support our troops ranks number one
For the job they do is never done

When forced they put it on the line
True patriots, when called they shine

Let’s raise Old Glory with a cheer
And thank all soldiers, past and here

by Roger Robicheau

Inspirational Woman Of The Day: Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel


On Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah ruled that the nation’s women would be allowed, for the first time, to vote and run in local elections beginning in 2015. However, Saudi women are still denied the basic rights to drive and to leave the country without permission.

In a rare interview with the U.S. media, Saudi Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel sat down with me on Thursday to discuss the status of women in her country. As the wife of Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud, King Abdullah’s nephew and the world’s 26th richest person—the largest individual shareholder of Citigroup—the 28-year-old royal doesn’t just sit on the sidelines. She is the vice chair of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation and an outspoken advocate for Saudi women’s rights.

The Princess says the region is making progress, denies that Middle Eastern women are second-class citizens and argues that Saudi women must be granted the right to drive to join the rest of the world.

Jenna Goudreau: You’ve become a major advocate for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, particularly that Saudi women be able to drive. Why is that important?

Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel: How long do you have?… It’s symbolic, both inside and outside [Saudi Arabia]. Inside, other than it being an economical barrier—an average woman spends 30% of her salary on a driver—[it’s] a social barrier. She can’t go some places because of this driver, lack of privacy, sometimes safety issues. It is symbolic outside, where we are being judged as suppressed and as happy with the status quo when we’re not. No matter how many great things we do, we’ll always be judged as a country that suppresses women because we’re the only country in the world where women can’t drive. If we want the world to look at us differently, this symbolic issue must change.

What will it take?

A decision by the powers that be. Just like the decision that was made in the ‘60s to allow women to have education, which was very controversial at the time. But still the steps were taken and now we have the highest rates of enrollment in universities.

Tell me about some of your other priorities for women in the region.

The biggest one is the legal sector. We have women graduating from law, but they can’t get their license. They can’t get their license because they have to practice for three years. And she can’t practice for three years until she gets her license. So it’s a big loop. At the Bin Talal Foundation we started a workshop for 600 women lawyers to voice their opinions. If we have more women in courts, inevitably we’ll have women judges. It will be much safer and more comfortable for women to be in courts.

Imagine you’re coming into an environment that is all male-dominated. Male lawyers, male judges, male everything. You’re the only woman there and you have to explain a private situation in your case. You really can’t. You end up being on the wrong side of things. Having more women in the legal system is very important to me because I come from a middle class family. My mom is divorced. My aunt is divorced. I know what they went through. I don’t want to see any women go through that again.

How supportive are your husband and his family of your views?

He’s very supportive. I’m blessed to marry such a man who sees his own power through empowering others. He supported the first female pilots. He says, ‘If a woman can’t drive in Saudi Arabia, she can fly.’ Sixty percent of his company are women. He really believes if you support women, you support the community. We need more men like him in our country, who not only support women but are very public about it.

You don’t wear a veil. You’re very fashionable. Are you sending a message with your clothing?

I’m not sending a message. It’s me. I’m not going to be hypocritical to please certain segments. A lot of young girls of my generation are exactly like me in Saudi Arabia. I’m being honest.

The perception among many Western women is that the Middle East is backwards, that women are second-class citizens. What would you say to those women?

We’re not backwards. We’re not second-class citizens. Maybe the rules are backwards and the policies are backwards, but it’s not us. We’re educated. We’re very much respected in our families. We’re entrepreneurs, businesswomen, social leaders. When they come, they’ll see.

The whole world has been watching the development of the Arab Spring. I’m curious to hear your perspective on the uprisings.

I’m from this generation. I’m very proud of what they did, may it be revolutions or evolutions. Every nation is different, and every government is different. The common thing about all these changes in the region is that we all want freedom of speech, more political participation, more economic opportunities and equal rights for men and women. We all want the four major things, and we’re all asking for them, but in different ways.

We’re getting there. Some of these countries will see them short term and some will take longer. I don’t see this generation going back. We’re interconnected. We’re globalized. We’re multilingual. I see us standing our ground. We’ll ask for these things not only for us, but for the generations to come.

Clearly, there’s change underway in Saudi Arabia. Are you hoping for a revolution or small incremental changes over time?

I wouldn’t say ‘small.’ When I said evolution I meant the decisions made by the King. Every week we hear a new decision. You have NGOS collaborating together to support these decisions. You have civil society that’s thriving, where people are getting together to voice their opinions. This is a big movement. You don’t need a revolution to fix things. You can fix them if you have the channels and you create institutions where people can voice their opinions to the government.

Did your husband approve this interview?

I approved it. My husband and I, like any couple in the world, inform each other about what we’re doing, but we don’t get approval. It’s not a school. It’s a marriage. It’s a collaborative effort, and it’s a partnership.

Women & Politics: Women, This Election Is About You

By Kelly Cassidy, Janet Howell, Constance Johnson, Yasmin Neal, Stacey Newman and Nina Turner

In a nation where independence and individual liberty are held in the highest regard, women are consistently told what they can and cannot do. In the wake of 2010’s conservative wave, state legislatures are taking drastic actions to enact policies that will restrict rights, curtail choices, and mandate behaviors. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, women have achieved a small victory for access to high quality health care.

President Obama’s landmark legislation will bring 30 million Americans into a health-care system that includes affordable family-planning services, improved access to contraception, and maternity care. The new federal law begins to equalize the playing field between men and women when it comes to health care. Even before the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the Act, conservative state legislatures were systematically eroding women’s reproductive rights. State lawmakers, still mired in bills that attempt to roll back health care options for women, are now expected to create health care exchanges by the end of 2013. Given the passionate ideology surrounding basic access to health care, states that have been busy revoking the rights of women will be opposed to implementing a law that guarantees women the choice to make their own health care decisions.

In Michigan, a bill threatens to shutter all reproductive health care clinics in the state with new cost-prohibitive measures designed specifically to target abortion providers. In Oklahoma, the legislature ordered doctors to jump through more hoops when prescribing mifepristone, a routine medication for early abortions. In Virginia, a woman will be subjected to costly and medically unnecessary ultrasounds prior to having an abortion — but, Governor Bob McDonnell assures, “she is fully free to decide what she should do.” In Arizona, a bill would have allowed an employer to terminate a female employee if it was determined that she was taking birth control to prevent birth. In Ohio, where a bill would criminalize abortions even in cases of rape and incest, State Representative Lynn Wachtmann dismissed criticism by saying, “Those cases are extremely rare — I know they always point those out.”

Are these policies in the best interests of American women? The same American women who fight on our front lines, raise our children, run our businesses, and comprise over 50% of our nation? We don’t think so.

As state legislators who are standing up against this encroachment on American ideals of independence and personal liberty, we have joined together to refocus the discussion on the most important factor: how these policies harm women.

With combined legislative experience of over 50 years, we are appalled by the intensity and efficacy of this regressive policy agenda. In response, we have each introduced provisions that would lend parity to the myopic discussion of women’s health by recognizing the opposite sex. Our policies would simply extend the same protections afforded to women to all those who carry within them the sacred capacity for human reproduction. The bills and amendments we have introduced would, among other things, protect life in its most basic form: sperm; ensure that men fully understand the potential risks of erectile dysfunction medication; and make certain that permanent surgical procedures to impair a man’s essential reproductive function are mutually agreed to by him and his life partner.

The independent introduction of these provisions demonstrates that limitations and burdens placed on a woman’s right to high quality health care options are a manifestation of inequality and a vestige of a more oppressive past. Seeking parity to the male-female dynamic, however, is not limited to reproductive health.

Economic equity is equally imperative in the 21st century. A woman who does the same job with the same skill and productivity as her male colleague reaps a salary of, on average, 23% less. Yet, few states have penalties for employers who engage in this discriminatory practice. The U.S. Senate’s rejection of the Paycheck Fairness Act earlier this month demonstrates that achieving economic equity is not a bipartisan priority.

As women, and as men who love and respect women, we must ask ourselves: Whom do these policies support? They certainly do not support the majority of men and women who want full coverage for birth control, or the one in five women who have visited a Planned Parenthood clinic. This is a vocal minority that is gaining mainstream policy-making power, from Congress to County Council.

Each of us ran for office because of a desire to solve problems in our communities. Unfortunately, women comprise only 24% of State Representatives and 21% of State Senators. Considering this minority, it is no surprise that women’s voices are routinely disregarded. The recent silencing of Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown as she attempted to speak on her amendment to a women’s reproductive health bill in the chamber to which she was freely elected is an example of flagrant disrespect for the voice of women in politics.

The policies state legislatures are generating not only disregard us, they harm us. In order for women to understand what is at stake, we must get beyond politics. Real women are severely impacted by these policy decisions every day. Lives are changed, hopes halted, and dreams dashed. We are living proof that when women see problems, they stand up to solve them.

Instead of focusing on ways to limit the personal freedom of over 158 million women, elected leaders should look for ways to equalize gender health care. President Obama initiated this policy shift by prohibiting insurance companies from cost discrimination against women and providing access to preventative health care services for women in the Affordable Care Act. This victory makes November even more critical for women, who stand to lose new rights that have now been upheld by our highest court.

Women: these are problems that must be solved by you and the men who love and support you. The election of 2012 is not about talking heads or politicos. This year, it is about you.

State Representative Kelly Cassidy

Amendment to HB 4085; introduced 22 Feb. 2012

– Introduced an amendment requiring men seeking medication for ED to receive from the physician, in person, orally and in writing, information on all of the potential medical risks. Would require men to watch a “horrific video” about the side effects of Viagra before they received a prescription for the drug.

– “If we were to require informed consent for potential erectile dysfunction patients on the potential side effects and treatment of those side effects, it would be a reasonable balance,” Rep. Cassidy said.

State Senator Janet Howell

Amendment to SB 484, introduced 26 Jan. 2012

– Introduced an amendment that would have required men to receive a digital rectal exam and pass a cardiac stress test before doctors wrote them a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication.

– “We need some gender equity here,” Howell said.

– The Virginia Senate rejected her amendment, but both chambers passed the ultrasound requirement after clarifying that women would not be forced to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound.

State Senator Constance Johnson

Amendment to SB 1433; introduced in Feb. 2012

– Introduced an amendment declaring “any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.”

– Senator Johnson said that her amendment points out the “absurdity, duplicity and lack of balance inherent in the policies of this state in regard to women.”

State Representative Yasmin Neal

Bill, HB 1116; introduced 21 Feb. 2012

– Bill would ban all vasectomies in Georgia except in cases where the man faces serious health risks without one.

– The bill states, “Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies. It is the purpose of the General Assembly to assert an invasive state interest in the reproductive habits of men in this state and substitute the will of the government over the will of adult men.”

– “No one ever talks about the male side of the issue. We just want them to know how it feels just this once,” Rep. Neal said.

State Representative Stacey Newman

Bill, HB 1853; introduced 29 Feb. 2012

– The bill would only allow a vasectomy to be performed “to avert the death of a man or avert serious risk of…physical impairment,” and no regard would be given to the man’s desire to father children.

– “If we are going to seriously restrict access to birth control used by over 98 percent of Missouri women and widely used since 1960, then it’s only fair we legislate men’s access as well,” said state Rep. Newman

State Senator Nina Turner

Bill, SB 307; introduced 6 March 2012

– The bill includes provisions to document that erectile dysfunction symptoms are not psychological and would guide men to make the right decision for their bodies. Physicians would be required to obtain a second opinion from a psychological professional to verify that a patient has a true medical malady before the medication could be prescribed. Notarized affidavit from a sexual partner would be required to attest to impotence. Outpatient counseling and stress test required, as is exposure to alternative forms of treatment for ED, such as natural remedies and abstinence as a positive lifestyle choice.

– “The men in our lives, including members of the General Assembly, generously devote time to fundamental female reproductive issues–the least we can do is return the favor. It is crucial that we take the appropriate steps to shelter vulnerable men from the potential side effects of these drugs,” Senator Turner said.

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