In the News…. September 26, 2011

One step forward…

From The Hindu:

Saudi Arabia: Yesterday King Abdullah announced that women will have the right to vote and run for public office in the 2015 elections. Very exciting news! Women’s groups in the country had been using the momentum of the Arab Spring to stage protests, especially around the ban against women driving. The government has gone easy on these rebellious women, not wanting to inspire a similar uprising like their neighboring countries. Power to the people.

And another backwards…


United States: Georgian Troy Davis was executed last week for allegedly killing an off-duty police officer, even though hundreds of thousands of people petitioned against the execution.  Apparently seven out of the nine jurors changed their verdict after the trial, saying that police had pressured them for a conviction.

In related news, Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry is a big advocate for the death penalty. Under his leadership Texas put 234 people to death.


The Rise of Women in India

Women are taking over India, in both business and politics. Here is a quick overview of the Indian political leaders in power. All women. Thanks to UO Professor Surendra Subramani for the email & photos.

We have Tamil Nadu’s own J Jayalilithaa in the South.

The fiery Mamata Banerjee in the East, the first female Chief Minister of West Bengal 

Mayawati in the North, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh

 In Central India, New Delhi, the Indian capital itself is ruled by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

Ms Sonia Gandhi is the leader of UPA, the party which is running the Government of India for a second consecutive term. She is the leader of the biggest Indian Political party, Indian National Congress. 

Ms. Pratiba Patil from the state of Maharashtra is on top as the President of India.

Parliament is in the process of passing the “Women’s Reservation Bill”, which reserves 33% of its seats for women. What a great idea! For reference, the 112th US Congress is made up of 16% women. We need to get some more women in there, who want to get to work instead of fostering healthy egos.

The other day I read an article about the increase of women enrolled in business schools. I liked this article not just for the good news of more women entering fields of leadership and management, but that The Hindu would find it newsworthy enough to write about. The Indian Institute of Management in Kozhikode has seen an increase from 10% women over the past fifty years, now the percentage of women enrolled is at 35%.

The article also talked about more women leaders in the United States, naming Drew Faust, the first woman president of Harvard, and Ren Khator, Chancellor of University of Houston, who is the first American-Indian woman ever to become head of a major American university.  Originally from Uttar Pradesh, “her story illustrated the rise of a first generation Indian immigrant from an obscure town in northern India to hard-earned glory in North America.” I thought the editorializing about glory was amusing.

A recent report in Reuters International put India as one of the top five most dangerous countries to be born a woman, alongside Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Equal opportunity is the greatest barrier for girls and women, as parents often give their sons more coaching and leadership development, along with an early marriage age of about 13 to 18 in most villages.

Women are expected to get married after school, which makes it more difficult to study and do well on the necessary examinations, even if that is an accepted option for them. One of the Sri Aurobindo Society’s large-scale projects is infrastructure development and education in the nearby village of Sarvam

The village school only offered up to grade 8. The school that offered grades 9 and 10 was 5 km away. If a student gets through grade 10 they take the big examination that will determine their future access to post-secondary education. But parents in Sarvam do not want to send their daughters that far away to go to school, as it is not safe for them to walk on their own. Daughters need to also provide daily household support to their families, so a daughter in school can seem burdensome. So with the help of the Society, the local school began offering classes through grade 10. This is one example of the straightforward but very impactful initiatives that the Society does in their village development work.

Education of women is the single best thing we can do to boost economies and better the quality of life for everyone. One of my favorite books I have recently read is called Half the Sky, a heartbreaking but inspiring  book about the impacts that education plays in empowering women. Another one I just finished is called Infidel, about a Somalian refugee who escapes from an arranged marriage and eventually becomes a member of Dutch Parliament. She is a strong advocate for women who are societally oppressed by Muslim culture. A captivating read.

Secretary of State

Guess who came to Chennai a few days ago? No one but our own Secretary of State! Hillary met with the newly elected Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. After congratulating her on her impressive victory, Clinton talked about her desire to build economic ties in Tamil Nadu for road infrastructure, automobile manufacturing, and Tamil Nadu’s goal of building ten solar energy parks.

Jayalalithaa wants more American visas to be granted to Indians from Tamil Nadu. The US’s original quota of 195,000 H1B visas has been lowered to 65,000, meaning a very high rejection rate. Sounds fair to me. The US can build their factories if Indians can get into the US to benefit from its prosperity? I don’t believe in international outsourcing, but if I did that sounds fair to me…

Clinton also gave a speech about the US pulling out of Afghanistan by 2014, as Indians have concerns.