Visible Women

Women’s Daily Dispatch: The news you need to know on 14/2/18

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Moya Crockett
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As part of our Visible Women initiative, brings you the Women’s Daily Dispatch: your daily digest of international news relating to women. It’s the good, bad, inspiring and urgent stories you need to know from around the world, all wrapped up in one bitesize piece.      

In today’s WDD, Canada’s former PM makes some ill-advised comments about women and “Kenya’s Erin Brockovich” gets her day in court. Closer to home, there are calls for the UN to intervene in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the London woman jailed in Iran – and there’s been a breakthrough in vaginal mesh treatments. 

Former Canadian prime minister criticises female newscasters for showing arms on TV

Former Canadian PM Kim Campbell 

Kim Campbell, the first female prime minister of Canada, has openly criticised female newscasters by saying women’s bare arms on TV are “demeaning”.

Campbell, who served briefly as Canada’s PM in 1993, took to Twitter to share her opinion. “I am struck by how many women on television news wear sleeveless dresses - often when sitting with suited men,” she wrote.

“I have always felt it was demeaning to the women and this suggests that I am right. Bare arms undermine credibility and gravitas!”

Campbell’s tweet also linked to a blog post by US communication coach Nick Morgan which references a study suggesting people are viewed as smarter if they cover their bodies.

“Apparently, we humans are pretty simple creatures. If you show up in front of us with skin exposed, we’re going to think about your body. If you’re wearing lots of clothing, we’re going to think about your mind,” writes Morgan. 

But women were quick to point out that successful women, such as the former FLOTUS Michelle Obama, often opt to wear sleeveless dresses - to which Campbell responded that she “doesn’t read the news”. 

The Telegraph has more on the story here.

UN asked to intervene to help Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

A photo of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Richard Ratcliffe at a demonstration in London for her release

The human rights charity Redress has asked the UN to help Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman currently being held in a Tehran prison.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran since April 2016, when she was arrested on spying charges. The mother-of-one, who was visiting her parents in Iran with her baby daughter Gabriella at the time of her arrest, has always denied plotting against the Iranian government.

Now, Redress has written to the special rapporteur at the UN to say that evidence “strongly suggests” that Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s treatment by the Iranian authorities amounts to torture.

Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, says that she has experienced severe hair and weight loss, and has recently been struggling to walk in prison. Her physical and mental health is also thought to be at risk.

Read more on this story at BBC News

Woman described as “Kenya’s Erin Brockovich” takes polluters to court 

A stream in Mombasa, Kenya, where lead pollution is a major problem

Pollution is an increasing problem in Kenya. As the number of lead plants in the east African country grows, so does the risk of the air being contaminated with toxic chemical fumes. In the city of Mombasa, dangerous untreated waste water has also been known to leak into the streams and rivers that people use to wash, cook and clean.

Now, environmental campaigner Phyllis Omido is taking the Kenyan government and two private companies to court, to try and secure millions in compensation for Mombasa residents whose health has been damaged by lead pollution.

Sometimes referred to as “the east African Erin Brockovich”, Omido’s journey into eco-activism was sparked by a deeply personal and traumatic experience. A single mother, she and her baby son were living near the Owino Uhuru lead-smelting plant in Mombasa when he was lead-poisoned through her breast milk.

That was eight years ago: since then, Omido has founded her own NGO, which has already successfully secured the shutdown of the Owino Uhuru plant (resulting in her being arrested and sent death threats). She now wants the government and two allegedly responsible companies to pay thousands of pollution victims £11.5m in compensation, and to agree to clean up contaminated land.

“This is the biggest step since we started,” Omido told The Guardian. “The victims will finally get to tell their story in court.”

For more on this story, click here

New breakthrough could change lives of women with vaginal mesh implants

Scientists at the University of Sheffield have developed a new material that may prevent serious injuries in women undergoing surgery involving vaginal mesh.

Every year, thousands of women in the UK go through procedures to repair their pelvic muscles, which have often been weakened in childbirth. If untreated, this can lead to prolapse – when pelvic organs including the uterus, bowl and bladder push into the vagina.

Vaginal mesh implants are used to strengthen the pelvic wall, but research suggests one in ten women experience complications with them, ranging from painful infections to death.

Scientists have now created new implants using polyurethane fibres, which they say have more flexibility and resemble human tissue more than mesh, meaning they could prevent injury altogether.

“This whole area has suffered from a lack of research because the manufacturers denied there was a problem [with the original mesh devices] and patients weren’t listened to,” said Professor Sheila MacNeil, professor of tissue engineering in the department of materials science and engineering at the University of Sheffield.

“I’m delighted other groups are developing these materials, the area needs more research and we ought to be one of twenty groups doing this,” she said.

Read more on this story here

Throughout 2018, Stylist is raising the profiles of brilliant women past and present – and empowering future generations to follow their lead – with our Visible Women campaign. See more from Visible Women here.  

Images: iStock / Rex Features