Women in Politics, India & US

Growing up in India and seeing Indira Gandhi as the most visible and top political office holder for 15 years (1966-1984), I felt confident about women's ability to lead in a very complex socio-political world despite the weight of gender expectations and biases in Indian society. I left for US the year after Indira's life ended tragically. Whole of India mourned her death like America did after JFK assasination. Unfortunate riots erupted against the Sikhs in some major cities[Bio of Indira Gandhi]. The Indian Womanifesto is a 6-point plan critical to the freedom and safety, equality and flourishing of India’s women and girls. Watch the meeting of two leaders of World's two largest democracies. [President Obama and PM Modi dialogue, Whitehouse.gov, 9/30/14, Obama's Visit to India 1/26/15]

Women's turnout during India's 2014 parliamentary general elections was 65.63%, compared to 67.09% turnout for men was significant, but women consists only 11% and 11.5% of the members of Lokshabha and Rajyasabha (Lower and Upper House of Parliament) respectively. Things may shift with 25% female ministers in Modi's cabinet. [Source link 1 and link 2]

After seeing some spooky statistics of women in US politics I felt compelled to go out door to door day before midterm election 2014) to encourage people to go out and vote. 

Why Does the US Still Have So Few Women in Office? 

Although Voters individually tend to see candidates through their partisan stereotypes, collectively they support women candidates at the same level that they support male candidates. Compared to India (67%), less than 60% of eligible voters in US vote in Presidential election and only 40% in mid-term election.  Meanwhile Rhode Island and New York moves country closer to eliminating the 'electoral college' system. I am puzzled by the fairness of Electoral college system in the US, since President and Vice President is not elected by National Popular Vote. [Read Free Book ]

Since US history (1776) only 294 women have served congress against 11,813 men [Source]. Something gotta change. Women aspiring to hold political office now can receive support and training from groups like Emergeamerica and Emily's list.

HOW did WOMEN CANDIDATES DO AS OUTLIERS in this Midterm Election.
Many Historic Firsts in this election. There is now a solidarity movement to address gender equality by HeforShe.org and a commitment supported publicly by Barack Obama, Ban-Ki-moon, Matt Daemon and many other public figures. More on  Men are People too. Staying indifferent and ignorant is being part of the problem.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” 
- Edmund Burke

Breaking Free From Marriage Trap for Girls in India

Nearly half of all girls 18 years and below enter marital relationship in India due to poverty and social-cultural-religious-political-economic biases and entrenched social perceptions working against girls. children. After My Garden Grows is a new short documentary about Monika, one of 40,000 rural Indian girls participating in the Girls Project, a partnership between the government of West Bengal and Landesa. This story highlights the struggle of rural girls to avoid early marriage and how a small parcel of land is creating new opportunities for Monika.

Bengali author and Berkley Professor Bharati Mukherjee depicts the story of escape from the conventional life of a Bengali girl Anjali to the Yankee high-tech call center opportunity of Bangalore in her latest Trilogy book 'Miss New India'. A large number of girls do not escape violence and violent death after marriage. The Global Gender Gap Report 2012 says the progress in gender gap reduction is positive but very slow.

"ONE of the most enduring cliches about India is that is a country of contradictions. Like all cliches, this one too has a grain of truth in it. At the heart of the contradiction stand Indian women: for it is true to say that they are among the most oppressed in the world, and it is equally true to say that they are among the most liberated, the most articulate and perhaps even the most free. Can these two realities be simultaneously true?" - Urvashi Butalia, publisher Kali for Women

CNN reports on India's 'Womanifesto'
How central are women's rights to this year's elections? 
India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes his first choice of foreign visit to Bhutan. BBC Link. He shares his views on a participatory and evolving democracy. Modi warned lawmakers against "politicising rape", saying they were "playing with the dignity of women" in his
  first speech to parliament since sweeping to power at last month's elections. - Guardian, 6/11/14

In China, unmarried women over 27 years are labeled as 'leftover' by a Government-run Women's Organization! Does that make sense? 
China's growing gender gap: women are not just 'leftover' but left out [reports Gaurdian]

Holding back half the nation : Women’s lowly status in the Japanese workplace has barely improved in decades, and the country suffers as a result. Shinzo Abe would like to change that. [reports Economist Japanese society had been ordered largely on matrilineal lines before the advent of Samurai in 15th century.  The fine line between economic empowerment and economic exploitation of women is not always obvious from the frontside. [Global Labor Right Campaign

Unmasking Gender Misrepresentation in Media and Culture

How would society change and cultures transform if boys and girls could grow up without the social mask of gender stereotypes?

Watch the film Miss Representation at vimeo. Social mask hinders development of human empathy, empathic connection, listening and communication.

If we like to work for a 'Future without Violence', we need to embrace a different kind of Social Awareness in our secular and spiritual education.

The great tragedy of wearing a socially approved gender roles and other mask too tightly too long is that we risk losing genuine connection with our own humanity and all living beings in our natural world. It perpetuates an artificial myth of separation, fuels animosity, insecurity and ill will, disconnecting us from our own sense of 'basic goodness' and deep realization of interdependence of all energies (including emotions) and forms in our everyday experiential world. - Susmita Braua

Our society needs to be aware of the suffering caused by unexamined gender stereotypes and expectations on our children. Just as we need to encourage respectful assertiveness in girls, so also we need to be welcoming of sensitive/empathic boys. Boys suffer quietly when they are rejected for their sensitivity and empathy. [ see hubpages aricle]

Is there a fear of showing our true face, our human vulnerability among men and women in modern culture? "The longer we mask our fear the more we experience the terror of our inauthenticity—perhaps creating chronic anxiety and despair. An ongoing red alert sounds off in response to threats that the terror we mask might be exposed. We might even say that the terror, as in the outer world, can become systemic within us. We become our own terrorist." -  Zenju Earthlyn Manuel.

Buddha is Still Teaching One Dharma ...

Aspiring Bodhisattvas walk through many paths (Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana) and wear many Hats (yellow, red, black and such). It struck me when Dalai Lama wearing a red baseball cap remarked   "Buddha wears no hat" in a large public gathering at Ann Arbor, Michigan.

There are many cultural expressions within Buddhism, yet Dharma is One Truth without relativity.
Dhamma is not male dhamma, female dhamma or garudhamma.  On Breaking Through Gender Ignorance, Garudhammas to Mind of Enlightenment....

 Prof. Dr. Karma Lekshe Tsomo from epb mz uni hamburg on Vimeo.

Venerable Lekshe Tsomo explores the origins and extraordinary implications of the contemporary Buddhist women’s movement from her perspective as co-creator of Sakyadhita, the most influential global network of Buddhist women, and as convener of bi-annual international conferences on Buddhist women where scholars, practitioners, artists, and activists exchange ideas and inspiration. Buddhist feminism and activism is good for deep social transformation, because it is non-violent and reconciles unwholesome barriers within (the various yanas) Buddhism and outside. Mind's fixation with 'form' (first of five skandhas) and Sakkaya dhitti (ego and personlity view) is a barrier to awakening to ultimate freedom and happiness (Nibbana).

According to Joseph Goldstein, "The defining characteristic of this emerging Western Buddhism is a basic pragmatism, rather than an adherence to some philosophical system or sectarian viewpoint. One Dharma of the West is an allegiance to a very simple question: What works? What works to free the mind from suffering? What works to accomplish the heart of compassion? What works to awaken us from the dream states of our ignorance? Do we sometimes water down, or even leave behind, the essence of the teachings simply because they take us beyond our Western physical or psychological comfort zone?" More on One Dharma.

Even in the Church, it is important to ask oneself: what presence does the woman have?
Women are called to service and not servitude..it pleases me to think that the Church is not ‘il Chiesa’ [‘the Church’, masculine]: it is ‘la Chiesa’ [feminine]. The Church is a woman! The Church is a mother! And that’s beautiful, eh? We have to think deeply about this.”
-- Mulieris Dignitatem Text, Vatican Radio

In the Secular world, citing “unfinished business,” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged to lead an effort to evaluate the progress made in empowering women and girls worldwide, at a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) panel in New York on September 25, 2013.

Buddha described the path to enlightenment is difficult as it requires one to swim against the current of the stream (of mass consciousness). Going against the stream (patisotagami) means going upstream to the source, much like schools of salmons swim upstream to the source water to die. It also means going against the social, cultural, brain conditionings and personality habits that are unwholesome, biased and corrupt.

Empowering The World's Excluded and Violated

Women of the world are still suffering from exclusion, discrimination and violence in economic, social, religious and political spheres. There is no place in the world where full gender equality exist.It is about time we wake up and change the institutionalized discrimination against women. See how simple 'Peace Huts' are building strength among women against cultural habit of violence against women. Can similar Peace Huts be designed here in the US? The Hotline.Org says: Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime. (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively). 

"Violence is never ever a choice, a man should make" - says Sir Patrick Steward, 72 year old British actor working to end violence against women. When a young woman attending Comicpalooza in Houston rose to thank actor Patrick Stewart for a 2009 speech he gave about domestic violence Stewart launched into an eloquent discussion. He spoke of the abuse his mother suffered at the hands of his father, and his work for 'Refuge' and A Million Men's Pledge to be proactively non-violent (my wording)
Things to know to address violence against women in India and the great opportunity for change in mass consciousness now.

"The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves."

Was Buddha, the first male founder of a major world philosophy and religion, the first 'feminist'? "we must be careful how we use the word ‘feminist’. If we understand feminism to mean a compassionate understanding of the special kinds of suffering endured by women, and a positive effort to redress such suffering, then the Buddha was the first feminist!" - Bhikkhu Ajahn Sujato, former Abbot of Santi Forest Monastery, Australia.

Seed of Compassion in Self and Society

"If the circumstances are such that a female Dalai Lama is more useful, then automatically a female Dalai Lama will come." - Dalai Lama
"Biologically women care more, so its not wrong to say, men create the problems." - Dalai Lama
In this video above, Dalai Lama is talking about his favorite topic!
Recently I attended the public teaching of His Holiness Dalai Lama in Louisville, KY at the end of a week-long 2013 Festival of Faiths. He began the teaching on Monday by reinstating some of the material he talked about the previous Sunday.

Dalai Lama mentioned the importance of the great role of mothers in society in imparting a sense of security, safety and the seed of compassion to children in the first seven years of life. Without this (my  interpretation) unspoken non-verbal emotional transmission of love, empathy and compassion children and siblings grow up with some sense of inner insecurity, little bit of fear and doubt. This affects the siblings' relationship within the family and their ability to form a self-secure relationship with a partner later in life. I had a big 'Aha' moment when my own partner of 27 years took my hand and agreed with that statement!

In our fast-paced technology-driven modern culture not just men but women are too hard-pressed to nurture that seed of basic goodness (basic sanity, maitri and karuna) within them.
Are women better equipped to lead with Compassion? Dalai Lama thinks so. He even sees the possibility of next Dalai Lama being a 'Woman'.
See HHDL's Interview here. Can we change the course of our own lives, the course of human society and human history through awake choices we make today, this year?

Women are often the main upholders and supporters of a religion or faith or movement. This was certainly so with Buddhism when it was at its beginnings, and hence we are able to find a good deal about them in those portions of the Pali canon known as the Vinaya-pitaka and the Sutta-pitaka. The Vinaya, which comprises the rules and regulations for monastic discipline, contains two sections: the Bhikkhunivibhanga and the Bhikkhunikhandhaka, both of which deal with the conduct nuns, or bhikkhunis, and female probationers should observe, and with the legislation that was laid down for the proper management of their Order — now unfortunately extinct. In the Buddha's times, however, it seems that quantities of women became nuns, so as to seek for peace, inner and outer, self-mastery, the light of knowledge, and so on, and perhaps especially for various forms of that freedom which lies at the very heart and center of the Buddha's Teaching: 
"As this great ocean has but one taste, that of salt, so has this Dhamma but one taste, that of freedom." I. B. Horner 

"We don’t have a right to ask whether we’re going to succeed or not. We only have a right to ask what’s the right thing to do and do it." Wendell Berry (April 2013)

Celebrating International Women's Day 3-8-2013!

  I woke up at wee hours of 4AM tonight following a self-suggestion to wake up at that time to do some reading from my unfinished reading pile. It included 'The System Stinks' study material from the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.

Instead I felt drawn towards my desktop (the use of which I am trying to cut down) and find several invitation waiting in my uncheked mail box at Wiser Earth.

I felt a sense of joy and freedom for being a Woman and the responsibilty that comes with that is really not a burden, but a blessing of Life itself! I rejoice that the the Gender Agenda is gaining Momentum!

 Photo Courtesy: Wibowo of Wiserearth
'IN CONVERSATION WITH THE DALAI LAMA" Sylvia Wetzel introduces the subject of "Striving for Equality Between Women & Men in Buddhism"

Wish a Happy International Women's Day to all Women of past, present and future, reaffirming my gratitude and connection to my own brave Mother (who passed away on September 2, 2012) and Grand Mother and having the privilege of continuing the journey with all my activist, feminist, peacenik friends everywhere for not giving up on humanity and taking care of our own mind-body and the body-mind of our planet!

"I had a dream that life is joy. I woke up to see life is duty. I witnessed service is joy!". - Tagore

Every woman can mentor, teach, educate, empower and uplift another woman. Claim your free KIVA gift for women here.

Transforming Judgement of the Feminine

Having spent this past weekend at the two day-long retreat on the Buddhist idea of ''Self and not-Self (anatta)" and "Transforming Judgements" by author and engaged Buddhist teacher Donald Rothberg I am reflecting on the 'unconscious judgement of the feminine' and its import in the larger context of the evolution of whole human psyche, self, and society.

In India, China and many other parts of the world today, girls are killed, aborted and abandoned quietly simply because they are girls. The United Nations estimates as many as 200 million girls are missing in the world today because of this so-called “gendercide” [see this 3 minute video of 'It's a Girl' Documentary]. Girls who survive infancy are often subject to neglect, and many grow up to face extreme violence and even death at the hands of their own husbands or other family members.

Incidentally, the book "Half the Sky" came to my hand as a professor from Florida was handing it to Bhikkhuni Dhammananda during an outdoor lunch for visitors in front of her monastery at Nakhompathom in Thailand. 

Inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s groundbreaking book, HALF THE SKY takes on the central moral challenge of the 21st century: the oppression of women and girls worldwide. It is a passionate call-to-arms, urging us not only to bear witness to the plight of the world’s women, but to help to transform their oppression into opportunity. The linked problems of sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence, and maternal mortality — which needlessly claim one woman every 90 seconds — present to us the single most vital opportunity of our time: the opportunity to make a change. Featuring actress/activists America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union and Olivia Wilde. Based on country data available, between 15 to 76 per cent of women experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime. It happens everywhere – at home and at work, on the streets and in schools, during peacetime and in conflict. (UN Women UNiTE initiative)

In a recent meeting in New Delhi, Dalai Lama speaks about the limitation of materialistic education to solve deep rooted social problems by encouraging brain intellect, excessive competition, mistrust and neglect of human experience and heart intelligence. He emphasised the need for Women to take leadership roles for the transformation of society and human civilization. However, girls and women continue to pay a heavy price for having their own 'Voice'. Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who dared to speak out against a ban on female education, was shot in the head by gunmen. Before the recent election week I was a little shocked to read that the most powerful Nation the U.S. ranks 79th in the world, behind 95 other countries, for percentage of women in office. This skewed pattern may be changing with the 2012 election (Emily's list)

Also came across this article What does Sex mean for World PeaceThe evidence is clear. The best predictor of a state's stability is how its women are treated. This applies to all human organization, public or private. What kind of views and intentions are essential now to make our inner and outer world turn towards sanity and compassion, so we can transform Self, Society and Economy from a Culture of War to a Culture of Peace.

Woman's Worth and Global Sustainability

"If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire." - George Monibrot

Support Baker's Stove to Empower Women

Women's empowerment is central to global sustainability says New UN Report. The UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability released its report “Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing,” on 30 January 2011 in Addis Ababa. The 22-member panel established by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2010 brought renowned global leaders together to “formulate a new blueprint for a sustainable future on a planet under increasing stress resulting from human activities. “Persistent gender inequality in particular has to be addressed as part of any serious shift towards sustainable development.” 

Only 17% of the U.S. Congress and 24% of state legislators in US are women. The 2012 Project is a nonpartisan campaign to inspire women to run for office. Get to know Dr. Jill Stein, Green party Independent Candidate for US 2012 Election.

Today, while women make up over half the world’s population and produce over half its food, they own less than 2% of its land. While development experts recommend agriculture as one of the fastest advancements out of poverty for Africa, women in many countries like Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Zimbabwe rarely control the profits from their crops, though they make up 80% of the farmers. Women are the farmers of the world. Now their right to own land is being recognized as the key for ending global hunger. See story of Sushmita at High Stakes at Land. Also visit the Young African Women's Initiative.

Support projects by Buddhist Global Relief

Women as Agents of Peace

agents of Peace Action (click on peace)

Not all news is bad news from Africa. An unexpected bright news from Zambia puts African women above men in terms of commitment to do their best despite lack of skill and education.

Why so many African American Women are joining the US military?

On a different note ~
Wonder how was life like for the citizen and non-citizen women in Classical Greece. 
How did Aristotle view women
Something I am munching on for my upcoming NCIS - AHA Panel Presentation on Jan 6, 2012

In his idealised REPUBLIC, Plato foresees an upperclass of ‘guardians’ among whom the chattel status of women is abolished (i.e. she is no longer owned by her husband) and in which women were to receive equal education to men.

“It is only males who are created directly by the gods and are given souls. Those who live rightly return to the stars, but those who are ‘cowards or [lead unrighteous lives] may with reason be supposed to have changed into the nature of women in the second generation’. This downward progress may continue through successive reincarnations unless reversed. In this situation, obviously it is only men who are complete human beings and can hope for ultimate fulfilment; the best a woman can hope for is to become a man” (Plato, Timaeus 90e)."  - www.Womenpreists.Org

"Women can, of course, be educated, but their minds are not adapted to the higher sciences, philosophy, or certain of the arts. Women may have happy inspirations, taste, elegance, but they have not the ideal. The difference between man and woman is the same as between animal and plant." - G.W. F. Hegel

"On the theory of the soul’s mortality, the inferiority of women’s capacity is easily accounted for. Their domestic life requires no higher faculties either of mind or body. This circumstance vanishes and becomes absolutely insignificant on the religious theory: the one sex has an equal task to perform as the other; their powers of reason and resolution ought also to have been equal, and both of them infinitely greater than at present." - David Hume, On the immortality of soul

 “A real man wants two things: danger and play. Therefore he wants woman as the most dangerous plaything. Man shall be educated for war, and woman for the recreation of the warrior: all else is folly [ ... ] And women must obey and find a depth for her surface. Surface is the disposition of woman: a mobile, stormy film over shallow water. Man’s disposition, however, is deep; his river roars in subterranean caves: woman feels his strength but does not comprehend it" - Nietzsche, Zarathustra  [Philosophical Misadventures: source link]

Philosophy mixed with misogyny makes a bad cocktail but a good subject for amusing kitchen conversation. How does unconscious biases develop in our family, community and culture?
Why are we men (and women) still killing our precious Girl Cells. Listen to Eve Ensler : Ted Talks

Coming back to the topic of peace, Amnesty International Commends US and Obama for Action Plan to protect women and children in conflict. 

Only 1 in 13 participants in peace negotiations since 1992 have been women, and women have served as only 6 percent of negotiators in formalized peace talks. Women have never been appointed as chief mediators in U.N.-brokered talks. [Amnestyusa.org LINK ]