A Message From The Creator

A Message From The Creator

Inspirational Woman Of The Day: Eleanor Roosevelt

Inspirational Woman Of The Day: Eleanor Roosevelt

Inspiration Of Style: Fivestory, A Boudoir With Stories to Tell

Inspiration Of Style: Fivestory, A Boudoir With Stories to Tell

Women’s Health: Let’s Hold Out Hope to Young Women in South Bronx

Women’s Health: Let’s Hold Out Hope to Young Women in South Bronx

Women’s News: Egypt’s Women Keep Showing Power in Protest

Women’s News: Egypt’s Women Keep Showing Power in Protest

A Message From The Creator

If You Think You Are Beaten

If you think you are beaten, you are.
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you’d like to win but think you can’t,
It’s almost certain you won’t.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But sooner or later, the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can.

-Walter D. Wintle


Inspirational Woman Of The Day: Eleanor Roosevelt

She is a great woman in history.

Born October 11, 1884, in New York City, Eleanor Roosevelt (niece of Theodore Roosevelt) was a shy child who grew up to be one of the most outspoken women in the White House. She married Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1905. During her husband’s presidency, Eleanor gave press conferences and wrote a newspaper column. After his death, she served at the UN working for human rights and women’s issues.

First lady, writer, and humanitarian. Born on October 11, 1884, in New York City, New York. The niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor was known as a shy child and experienced tremendous loss at a young age. Her mother died in 1892. Two years later, Eleanor became an orphan at the age of 10 with the death of her father. She was sent to school in England as a teenager, an experience that help draw her out of her shell.

In 1905 she married her distant cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. For Eleanor, the early years of her marriage were filled with family activities. The couple had six children: Anna, James, Franklin (who died as an infant), Elliott, Franklin Jr., and John. She did not let her growing family prevent her from helping others. During World War I, she became active in public service, working for the American Red Cross.

After her husband suffered a polio attack in 1921, Eleanor stepped forward to help Franklin with his political career. When her husband became president in 1933, Eleanor dramatically changed the role of the first lady. Not content to stay in the background and handle domestic matters, she showed the world that the first lady was an important part of American politics. Eleanor gave press conferences and even had her own newspaper column entitled My Day. Eleanor spoke out for human rights, women’s issues, and children’s causes. She also wanted to help the country’s poor and stood against racial discrimination.

During World War II, Eleanor supported the war effort and traveled abroad to visit U.S. troops. After her husband’s death in 1945, she was selected to be a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, serving from 1945 to 1953. She also became the chair of the UN’s Human Rights Commission. As a part of this commission, she helped to write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Besides her political work, Eleanor also wrote several books about her life and experiences, including This Is My Story (1937), This I Remember (1949), On My Own (1958), and Autobiography (1961). She made a return to public service the same year her autobiography was published. President John F. Kennedy made her a delegate to the United Nations in 1961. He also selected her to serve as chair of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Eleanor died of cancer on November 7, 1962. A revolutionary first lady, she was one of the most outspoken women to ever live in the White House. While she had her share of critics, most could agree that she was a great humanitarian who dedicated much of her life to fighting for what she thought was right.

Inspiration Of Style: Fivestory, A Boudoir With Stories to Tell


CAN fashion rise to the level of art? That’s the central question posed by the current “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations” exhibition at the Costume Institute, in which the two designers, the first dead for almost 40 years, are felicitously if somewhat awkwardly juxtaposed with some cutting-edge video techniques (Skype-arelli!).

It is also being addressed, if not wholly answered, a half-mile south at Fivestory, a new boutique opened by Claire Distenfeld, who at age 26 is younger than some dresses in my closet.

Not that Ms. Distenfeld didn’t get a bit of a leg up. She is the daughter of Fred Distenfeld, a bigwig in the world of exotic skins whom she calls “Fred” rather than “Dad,” like characters in a Preston Sturges screwball comedy. There’s a smattering of Distenfeld-derived purses — python skins tied into loose knots as if suffering slight indigestion — throughout the store, which occupies two (“for now,” said a saleswoman) floors of a town house on 69th Street, in a stretch of town where 12-year-old identical twins in tennis whites, grown women on scooters and poodles the size of Shetland ponies are all perfectly common sights.

I visited on one of those late afternoons when the Upper East Side seems bathed in a golden glow (or claire, if you will), a spring wind ruffling Central Park elms and the $100 bills in hedge-fund managers’ wallets. Lacking that kind of light or lettuce, you might illuminate your garret with the Ligne Blanche Keith Haring- or Jean-Michel Basquiat-themed candles clustered at Fivestory’s entrance.

“And when the wax is all melted, you are left with a piece of art,” said Simba, the absolute sweetheart of a salesman who adopted me after a few giddy unmonitored moments.

“Simba, like ‘The Lion King’?” asked a stylist on the prowl for red-carpet looks.

“I’ve never seen it,” Simba replied. I soon discovered he was from Tanzania and homesick for 4 p.m. teas with his mother (Seletti cookie jar with milk jug, sugar bowl and cups cleverly concealed within, $495).

Fivestory, the “story” of which is meant to convey not just the shop’s verticality but the sense of provenance behind each item, is divided like Gaul into three parts: casual and men’s wear downstairs; party dresses upstairs; and a shoe mezzanine that Ms. Distenfeld has envisioned, charmingly, as a garden. From there, as if plucking the season’s finest hydrangeas, Simba retrieved a pair of Jerome C. Rousseau green velvet pumps with vertiginous silver heels, the better to show off the various oddments — army-fatigue shorts with braided trim; stud-collared white oxford-cloth shirt — he had helped me array in a silver-curtained dressing chamber. Next to them hung a silken robe, the kind found at the hairdresser, for lounging indolently between costume changes.

“I have brought upstairs to you!” Simba announced 10 minutes later, having fetched a half-dozen cocktail frocks from above, gallantly underestimating my size. (“We go by the eye.”)

I was indifferent to a white poplin shift by Rue du Mail with a mesh thingamabob appliquéd to the front like a lawn trellis; and a beige peplum sheath by Cushnie et Ochs. But I fell hard for the Zaza from Preen by Thornton Bregazzi: an electric-blue sculptural garment in acetate with a strap across the back that managed to be both futuristic and retro. Taking Zaza home, a purely theoretical proposition, would cost $1,150, framing not included.

“You have an interesting selection that not everyone has,” a customer who said she worked for Gaultier told the staff, and she was right. To browse at Fivestory is to plunge Alice in Wonderland-like into a strange, refreshing mirror world of unfamiliar fashion. Not Altuzarra, but Aquazzura. Not Dolce & Gabbana, but Chianti and Parker.

It’s an interesting approach, to go small and nimble and bloggy (Del Toro flats guest-designed by the Internet’s self-appointed Man Repeller, Leandra Medine, $325) in a neighborhood increasingly dominated by big brands; if Barneys is the Met of this shopping district, consider Fivestory more of a Frick Collection.

I COULDN’T help thinking that Schiaparelli, with her unmanageable surname and Surrealistic leanings, would feel at home here. Certainly she would see something of herself in daffy touches like the paper “diamond” necklace tied around a ruffled white piqué Vika Gazinskaya dress on the second story. Despite being so late for a party that it seemed as if the clock on my smartphone was melting, I spent several happy minutes wrestling into Ms. Gazinskaya’s stiff but flattering silhouettes, many of which come with sheer white panniers attached, as a different kind of Impossible Conversation floated over the curtain.

“She’s a cougar?” whispered a hard-of-hearing gossipeuse.

“No, she’s in Cuba,” hissed her companion.


18 East 69th Street, (212) 288-1338; fivestoryny.com.

GLORY A small, luxurious boutique specializing in independent designers, Fivestory has been compared to Colette in Paris. But it’s less comprehensive, though perhaps more intimate, like stepping into a rich girlfriend’s boudoir. A well-chosen music mix keeps shoppers agreeably off-balance.

RAPPORT-Y The staff is eager to establish personal connections with visitors. The Web site is not yet active, though a Tumblr account (fivestoryny.tumblr.com) serves as an ongoing online mood board.

INVENTORY “There is something for everyone,” insisted a saleswoman — to gawp at, perhaps. The stock, including Erickson Beamon jewelry and Edie Parker confetti clutches, is decidedly priced for the locals.

Women’s Health: Let’s Hold Out Hope to Young Women in South Bronx

By Dr. Sharon Ufberg

WeNews commentator

A holistic healing and training center that provides a beacon of hope to young women in the South Bronx is in trouble. Private funding has dried up and volunteers are struggling to keep it going.

NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)–Casa Atabex Ache, La Casa del Poder de la Mujer is what it’s called by the women who run it and are served by it. The name is a blend of their African, Latina and indigenous roots.

Casa means home in Spanish and acknowledges Latina ancestry.

Atabex is the representation of a goddess well known to an indigenous Taino Puerto Rican community.

Ache means power in the Nigerian Yoruba dialect.

The merged words from different languages reflect the heritages of the women being served. Many are a long way from any sense of home and have survived troubled childhoods in foster homes and struggling families.

For such young women, this group represents hope. In English, La Casa del Poder del la Mujer is called “The House of Women’s Power.”

However, the Casa lost the last of its private foundation funding this year, like many small nonprofits, and the organization founded in 1987 has been struggling for survival.

Housed in a donated basement space of an apartment building, Casa is the only center in the South Bronx, N.Y., to offer a safe space for young women and girls to share their stories, heal from trauma, receive training and feel empowered to move up and out of the cycle of violence and poverty. About 25 women of all ages come to it monthly for self healing circles and programs. Some enjoy healing medicinal rites from their families’ traditional communities.

Well Known Identity

The South Bronx’s identity as the poorest and most marginalized community in the country is well known. Addiction, mental illness, violence and poverty surround housing projects, hospitals, mental health facilities and churches.

Mott Haven, Casa’s neighborhood, claims the highest rates of teen pregnancy and infant mortality in the state, according to the New York Department of Health Services. It’s in the poorest congressional district in the country, in New York’s northern borough of the Bronx, named the state’s “unhealthiest” county by the University of Wisconsin in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Casa’s Executive Director Dayanarna Marte and two staffers continue to work without pay. Because of their commitment to the organization and its mission, they each have gone back to school to get advance degreesand training so they are better equipped to rebuild Casa’s infrastructure and pursue strategic goals.

Starting out at Casa Atabex as an intern in 1998, Marte and the other volunteer staffers are continuing programming and workshops they run with the help of volunteer organizers and healers in the community.

Teen mothers lead workshops for other teen moms in a program called “Rooted in the Heart,” an offshoot of an earlier Yo Tengo Fuerza project that targeted 12 to 18 year old girls.

“Yo Tengo Fuerza: I Have Power–Young Womyn Healing, Transforming and Being Free” is Casa Atabex Ache’smoving documentary. It tells the story of three young women, the abuse, violence and neglect they face at school, within their own families or in foster care and their journey to self heal through their involvement in programming at Casa Atabex Ache.

The movie came out of a pilot leadership training program in 2008 and demonstrates how much can be accomplished in a short span of time.

Spreading the Support

Dayanarna Marte (middle) holds hands during a Casa Atabex Ache retreat.Twenty women in that pilot program were taught self-healing skills and now provide crisis support to other women. Some work in New York City. One delegation went to help the victims in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Another has gone to post-earthquake Haiti.

The mission, says Marte, is to provide a doorway to boundless transformation “starting right here in the South Bronx.” Here, she says, a young woman will have mentors. “She will find her voice, mind, body and spirit.” Casa Atabex Ache is a one-stop center that holistically helps a young woman surmount trauma, poverty and violence, says Marte, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic and a mother of two children.

“Here she will do arts as healing, have access to holistic mental health support, learn alternative life skills that connect her to the earth, learn about preventative medicine as an alternative to the declining health care system,” she said in an interview with Women’s eNews.

Every day two or three young women stop by looking for work and training opportunities, she says. But with funding gone, they cannot help these women as they once did. Most of the women that stop by have been forced to drop out of school to look for work to support their families.

As a woman-led organization, for and by women of color, Casa Atabex Ache is like many other programs in this country that run on meager funds and uncertain funding commitments. The money to fund such projects is vital. Let’s remember our sisters, right here in our own backyard. They need our assistance, love and support.

Dr. Sharon Ufberg is a respected integrative practitioner, health care journalist and consultant. She is an international leader and activist in issues of women’s health and safety and a delegate to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. She can be reached at sufberg@gmail.com orhttp://drsharonufberg.com or followed on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/drufberg

Women’s News: Egypt’s Women Keep Showing Power in Protest

By Jessica Gray

WeNews correspondent

Friday, May 11, 2012

Article History

Egypt’s revolution is now often described as hijacked and women’s legal rights are seen as vulnerable to an Islamic-style promotion of marriage and family. But in a show of their own force, women keep braving the deadly dangers of street protests.

CAIRO, Egypt (WOMENSENEWS) –Female protesters continue to participate in pro-democracy demonstrations that remain deadly more than a year after President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown.

Primary school teacher Reham El Hakim, for instance, was on the front lines on May 5 when the 12th person was killed during demonstrations against the military government in Abbasaiya in front of the Ministry of Defense. Hundreds were detained and although many have been released, Associated Press reportspaint a grim picture of the harassment, molestation and threats of increased sexual violence these men and women faced in custody.

El Hakim wasn’t among the detained, but still felt fear in her heart when she saw tear gas and water cannons and heard gunfire rip into the crowds. She said it was her duty, though, as an Egyptian and a woman to be part of the movement against the military.

“When I saw the gas and smoke, of course I was afraid. I heard the sound of gunfire. I wanted to see what was happening,” she said.

This kind of bravery, said Mariam Kirollos, an activist who was among the millions protesting in Tahrir Square last year, shows the revolution, for all the disappointment of recent months, is still being fought and holds promise for stronger women’s rights.

“I believe that everyday, the protests show the power of women,” said the 22-year-old political science graduate, who also participated in the Abbasaiya protests.

Kirollos pointed to women’s refusal to back down in the face of the military junta in March 2011, when numerous protesters were rounded up and subjected to “virginity tests” by officers, which prompted a much-talked about court case. She also cited the attack on a female protester last December by security forces who stripped her clothes and beat her, with camera crews catching the brutal scene on film.

“Even after what happened last December; it makes women stand up for their rights. Even the female doctors at the field hospitals at demonstrations. It takes a lot of guts to be working in that [environment],” Kirollos said.

‘Hijacked’ Revolution

It’s now commonplace, however, to hear people say that the military government and Islamic politicians, who did not at first approve of the anti-Mubarak demonstrations, have “hijacked” the revolution.

While activists promise to protect the nation’s more progressive divorce laws and higher marriage age for women, there is no action plan in place should parliament, with its large, family-focused Islamist parties, decide to tackle any laws they determine hurt marriage or the sanctity of the family unit.

Party members have also said they support the controversial act of female genital mutilation, despite Egypt banning the practice in 2008 and implementing fines or jail sentences. A 2005 government health survey found 96 percent of Egyptian women who had been married had undergone the procedure.

Kirollos said that everyday Egyptians–inundated with news about the upcoming May elections and sophisticated media campaigns from the Muslim Brotherhood contesting the banning of candidates–are losing sight of the true goals of the revolution. Too little is being said now about promoting human rights, ending corruption and moving Egypt toward democracy.

“During the protests in Tahrir [last year] the enemy was clear to everyone. People cannot understand that the Supreme Council of Armed Forces is the same regime we’ve been chanting against since Jan. 25. Right now they define ‘revolutionaries’ with their movements or groups  . . .  and not with their causes,” she said.

But that doesn’t mean women’s voices are being drowned out. In fact, Kirollos said the revolution has put fresh fire under issues surrounding women in politics, media, education and grassroots movements, even though they were not necessarily the main thrust of Egypt’s revolt.

The Latest Debate

The latest debate swept over the Internet two weeks ago, after Egyptian-American activist Mona Eltahawy accused Middle Easterners of “hating” women in her controversial Foreign Policy May/June cover story “Why do they hate us?” The piece described the second-class-citizen status that some women in the region face, which is enshrined in both culture and legislation.

The story was accompanied by an image of a naked woman painted in black, with only her eyes unpainted, a sexualized symbol of the traditional burka and niqab dress worn by some Muslim women.

Soon after, reactions on blogs and news outlets began pouring in, with many refuting the idea that hate was the primary cause of the suppression of girls and women.

“Even before reading the responses, I could have guessed what most would say, for indeed Eltahawy’s piece is reductive and essentialist, at the same time that it generalizes and perpetuates some of the very stereotypes individuals like her have long struggled to debunk,” wrote Parastou Hassouri, a consultant with International Civil Society Action Network’s MENA program, on the popular Arabist news website.

But this kind of dialogue will likely be found increasingly on the fringe of Egypt’s main political stage, with politicos gearing up for a potential three-way battle between Egypt’s military, the Islamist-majority parliament and Egypt’s new president for control of the country.

The fracturing of the country’s protesters was on display on a recent Friday, when thousands of Egyptians once again fill Tahrir Square in the heart of downtown Cairo, calling for an end to military rule.

Many wore black shirts with a white clenched fist across the back in support of the April 6 Youth Movement, one of the first groups to call for mass demonstrations leading up to Egypt’s 18-day uprising.

But they did not have the protest space to themselves.

Just meters away, taking up the other half of the roundabout, thousands more were demanding the reinstatement of failed presidential candidate and lawyer Hazem Abou Ismail, whose supporters largely believe in traditional gender roles for women and the separation of sexes, as well as banning bikinis on public beaches and the consumption of alcohol.

Less Focus on Rights, Freedoms

Islamic protests like these, along with the presidential campaigns, consume much of Egypt’s media spotlight nowadays.

Less is said about protecting personal rights and freedoms. Last year’s constitutional amendment vote limited some presidential powers. But since then, the constitution-drafting process has stalled. The proposed committee tasked with revising the landmark legislation was disbanded and there is no word when it will be reformed.

In the meantime, Islamist politicians and like-minded groups have taken advantage of Egypt’s political vacuum by winning seats in parliament and fielding their own presidential candidates. This comes despite the fact that some of their members were openly dismissive of the uprising in its early days.

It helps that some of these groups, unlike their more liberal counterparts, are highly organized and have a long history. Others like the ultra-conservative Salafist party Al-Nour are using religion and the promise of an Islamic Egypt to bolster support.

The funding of these groups is a big question here, with much speculation surrounding the oil-and-gas rich states of the Persian Gulf, which are Islamic, conservative and poised, perhaps, to spread their cultural influence.

“I don’t have any reliable information although I hear a lot about their funds from the Gulf,” said Samer Soliman, a political science professor at the American University in Cairo.

But Soliman does not embrace the hijacking metaphor to describe the current situation in Egypt. Instead, he believes that there is more to come

“The revolution is not finished,” he said in a recent phone interview. “Or at least its outcomes are not yet finalized. So it is wrong to say that it has been ‘hijacked’ by the Islamists. But at this moment, they are the first beneficiary. But in the future I think there is a room for marking a balance in Egyptian politics.”

Jessica Gray is a Canadian journalist reporting on the Middle East from Cairo.

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