Global Good News 04.22.18

BY GAYLE JO CARTER April 22, 2019

An Aspire look at some of the positive changes in women’s lives around the world.


To mark Equal Pay Day on March 18, the BVG, which runs the city’s bus, tram and subway systems and is the country’s largest public transit authority, offered a Gender-specific “Frauenticket” that was 21% cheaper than usual for women. Under the slogan “Mind the pay gap”, the cut-price ticket was intended to flag the 21% difference between men and women’s average earnings, one of the biggest gender pay gaps in Europe.  


Agunah in Hebrew literally means “chained” — agunot are women who are chained to their marriages. Orthodox women whose husbands refuse to grant them a “get,” a religious divorce, suffer many debilitating consequences of this situation including the threat that the women will remain trapped during the years she is able to have children. But egg freezing, a medical service that allows women to preserve an aspect of their fertility, is prohibitively expensive for most, over $10,000 just to start. Here’s the good news: non-profit ORA, the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, will now offer women egg-freezing options in addition to other forms of support. Read more: here


A professor from the University of Texas at Austin has become the first woman ever to win one of the most prestigious prizes in mathematics. The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters named Karen Uhlenbeck the recipient of its 2019 Abel Prize. The international award, modeled after the Nobel Prize, is given to those who have made significant impacts in their fields and comes with a cash prize of Norwegian kroner worth about $700,000. Uhlenbeck was cited for “her pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory and interchangeable systems, and for the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics.” While the 76-year-old award-winner is best known for her work in the geometry field, she has also touched on physics and the quantum theory over the course of her decades-long career.


Zuzana Caputova, a liberal environmental activist and a political newcomer, was elected Slovakia’s first female president, riding to victory on a wave of public outrage against corruption in government.  In her acceptance speech, Caputova declared her win as a rebuke to the nationalist rhetoric on the rise in central Europe.  Caputova gained popularity in Slovakia after her decade-long crusade to shut down a toxic waste dump, which was spewing poison into her hometown of Pezinok in western Slovakia. Her campaign to close the site earned her a prestigious Goldman Environmental prize in 2016, along with the nickname “Erin Brockovich of Slovakia.”


South Korea’s Constitutional Court struck down the country’s laws prohibiting abortion, a landmark decision challenging the 66-year-old ban that had become increasingly unpopular in recent years. Under Articles 269 and 270 of South Korea’s Criminal Act, women who intentionally end pregnancy are punishable with up to a year in prison, and doctors who perform abortion can face up to two years in jail. Only a few exceptions are allowed. The Constitutional Court’s ruling said those laws infringe on the basic rights of pregnant women by essentially forcing pregnancy and childbirth. The decision requires South Korea’s legislature to change the law by the end of next year. Enacted in 1953, the abortion ban went largely unenforced and abortion was widespread and condoned for decades under government-led “family planning” schemes. Nonetheless, South Korea has been reluctant to reverse or scale back the ban. But even if the assembly doesn’t make changes to the current law, it will be automatically nullified in 2021, the court’s ruling dictates.


Beginning this summer, women and girls at hospitals across England will be offered free tampons and other sanitary products. Advocates are calling this “a big step forward” in the effort to end so-called period poverty. The decision by National Health Service England comes less than a year after the British Medical Association noted that hospitals across Britain had “often poor and inconsistent” practices of offering sanitary products and called on the government to provide them for patients’ “health, dignity and well-being.” The free sanitary products will be offered in all medical settings in England overseen by the National Health Service.


In California, State Assembly members Tasha Boerner Horvath and Lorena Gonzalez proposed legislation in March that would force sports competitions held on state-granted land or property to reward male and female competitors equally, closing the gender pay gap for many athletes. The bill, dubbed Equal Pay for Equal Play, was inspired by a group of female surfers who fought for years to get women invited to a legendary big-wave contest at the Mavericks surf break in Half Moon Bay, California, which had been exclusive to men since 1999. If passed, the legislation would require organizations seeking state permission to hold an event on state property to guarantee that equal prize money goes to all genders. If equal pay isn’t being offered, officials would have to decline the request for an event permit or lease. AB 467, as it is officially known, could affect a wide variety of events, including marathons, triathlons and outdoor competitions for surfing, swimming, biking and other athletic activities held on state property. It would also affect competitions at a smaller scale, including youth events like soccer games or skateboard competitions on state property.


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