Women’s Equality Day Event

Our recent Women’s Equality Day event August 24, 2013 was a raging success at the African-American Arts and Culture Complex in San Francisco!  We discussed critical concerns that are challenging California women and girls and related them to the global  Beijing Platform for action.  We were graced with the presence of Christine Pelosi, who accepted our Princess Leia award for her amazing mother Leader Pelosi.  Accepting our Circle of Courage Award was Lys Anzia, Founder and Executive Editor of Women News Network , and Rebecca Blanton,  dynamite new Executive Director, California Commission on Women as of March , briefed us on her work and vision for the state CSW.

Sign on to participate in co-creating the  2015 California Women’s Agenda (CAWA) with us and to receive updates on plans and emerging issues for  Beijing+20, 2015. Join WIN HERE , send in the WIN Member Form, or email us at win@WINaction.org

View the Outcome Summary Report from the Discussion Tables at the event.

More photos from the Women’s Day Event August 24, 2013 and videos with soon to come!  There’s a whole lot more!

Attached is Leader Pelosi’s letter of acceptance of our award  and  a commendation letter from Senator Dianne Feinstein.  We’re so proud of our women legislators!

“Call to Action on Issues Impacting Women and Girls”
Priority issues raised at this event will help co-create agendas for a California and US Women’s Plan of Action that goes to the UN Commission Session for a celebration of Beijing+20 in 2015 as part of efforts to amplify women and girls’ voices and impact US and global deliberations. Read more here. We welcomed farm worker leaders from the Central Valley, grassroots activists, women’s organizations, legislators, and other interested groups. Participants discussed priority issues important to their communities. Among those were  economic justice, education, health, violence against women and human trafficking. These key concerns were framed by a shared consensus on the ratification of CEDAW at the federal level as a founding document for further progress in women’s rights. Our event was a beginning, a step forward in creating empowerment, identifying critical issues, and problem solving with strategic solutions.

Be sure to read Board Member Kathleen Cha’s Concluding Remarks.

YOUR VOICE COUNTS!  Join WIN now and be part of the CALIFORNIA WOMEN’S AGENDA, 2015.

For more information on how to add your voice to CAWA+20 email  us at win@WINaction.org!

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Christine Pelosi accepting the Princess Leia Award

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Board members Jessica Buchleitner and Ana Maria Sanchez standing with the amazing Aileen Hernandez (center in orange hat) and Elahe Amani, Chair of WIN Global Council

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With Jessica Buchleitner (Board Secretary), Marilyn Fowler (President and CEO of WIN), Emily Salgado, Rebecca Blanton (Executive Director of CA Commission on the Status of Women and Girls), Emily Murase (SF Department on the Status of Women).

Group photo of WIN and our partners!

Group photo of WIN and our partners!

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54th Session on the UN Commission on the Status of Women Progress but Huge Political Challenges Ahead

Elahe Amani
April 28, 2010

Elahe Amani, Co-Chair of Women Intercultural Network

Elahe Amani, Co-Chair of Women Intercultural Network


2010 is a significant year for the global women’s movement. It marks the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPA), the 30th anniversary of Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discriminations Against Women (CEDAW), known as the “Bill of Rights of Women and Girls, “ and 10 years since the Millennium Development Goals ( MDGs) were drawn up. It is a time to reflect, measure the progress, and work on the challenges, failings, and future prospects.
This year, the meeting at the Commission on the Status of Women ( CSW), brought together the UN official delegations, and NGOs as the Beijing Plus 15 Forum was also on February 27th & 28th in New York. The NGOs in a two days intense programming reviewed the progress of the governments in their commitments to implement the goals set at the Beijing Conference in 1995, in addition to shaping a global conversation about the new UN Women’s Agency (due to be created by June 2010 ) and contribute to the General Assembly meeting on MDGs in September 2010.
In 1995 the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing adopted the global policy framework Platform for Action (PFA), which has been the he most comprehensive and progressive document for women’s rights and empowerment ever since. The fact remains that fifteen years since the Beijing Declaration, there has been progress in the status of women and advancement of gender equality, but that progress has been slow, uneven, and has not achieved the goals set at the Beijing Conference.
The following are the Twelve Critical Areas of Concern of the Beijing Platform for Action: Poverty—education and training—health—violence against women—armed conflict—economy—power and decision-making—institutional mechanisms—human rights—environment—girl children.
From March 1st through the 12th, the CSW and more than 2000 representatives of NGOs, gathered in New York City to address the issues in the above-mentioned areas, in order to facilitate an “exchange of national experiences, lessons learned and good practices.” The theme focused on “implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to gender equality and the empowerment of women” as outlined in the review report of the UN Secretary-General. The following is a very brief summary of the review of the implementation of the PFA by member States :

1. Poverty

PFA stresses that eradication of poverty is of top priority in promoting women’s rights and empowerment. UNIFAM’s “Women, Poverty and Economies” (source: http://www.unifem.org/gender_issues/women_poverty_economics/) indicates that “Poverty implications are widespread for women, leaving many without even basic rights such as access to clean drinking water, sanitation, medical care and decent employment. Being poor can also mean they have little protection from violence and have no role in decision making. According to some estimates, women represent 70 percent of the world’s poor. They are often paid less than men for their work, with the average wage gap in 2008 being 17 percent. Women face persistent discrimination when they apply for credit for business or self-employment and are often concentrated in insecure, unsafe and low-wage work. Eight out of ten women workers are considered to be in vulnerable employment in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, with global economic changes taking a huge toll on their livelihoods.” Needless to say that certain groups of women are more vulnerable to suffer poverty, such as women farmers, migrants, older women, immigrant and refugees women and women with disabilities.”
Progress has been uneven across regions and within countries. While poverty in eastern Asia, for example, declined from 39 percent in 1995 to 19 percent in 2005, poverty levels in sub-Saharan Africa were only reduced from 57 percent to 51 percent over the same period. The current worldwide financial and economic crisis threatens to reverse the progress made in poverty reduction. There should be an increased focus on upsetting up means of social protection of women in poverty and their families, on increasing women’s access to land ownership, property, and other productive resources, as well as to increase their access to financial services, such as micro-credit, savings, insurance, etc.

2. Education and training

Access to education increased globally for girls at all levels especially in primary education. The ratio of girl to boy first-graders increased globally from 92 girls per 100 boys in 1999 to 95 girls per 100 boys in 2006. In 1999 there were 96 women per 100 enrolled in higher education institutions globally. By 2006 women outnumbered men, bringing the proportion to 106 women to 100 men. While in developed and transition countries, in the Caribbean and the In the Pacific and in Middle East regions, women tend to outnumber men, but also continue to lag behind men in many other parts of the world, including in sub-Saharan Africa. Gender segregation in the field of study remains widespread. Limited study choices of women and girls can lead to limited career choices and less earning prospects.
The world continues to progress towards gender parity in education, as many countries have successfully promoted girls’ education as part of their efforts to boost overall enrolment. But gender disparities in education are clearly evident in some regions. Sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, and Western Asia have the largest gender gaps in primary enrollment. At this current rate of progress, the MDG 3 target of eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015 remains far from being achieved.
Efforts should be made to focus on education as a priority goal in national policies, to promote non-discriminatory education, to increase access to formal education, and to sustain attention to non-formal education and training of skills.

3. Women and health

Over the past decade countries have made efforts to establish and to improve the health infrastructure by broadening the range of services and quality of care. Regarding HIV/AIDS, emphasis has been on prevention, education regarding sexual and reproductive health, counseling /therapy, and testing and prevention of mother-to-child transmission. However maternal mortality rates remain high worldwide. Every year, 536,000 women and girls die as a result of complications during pregnancy, childbirth, or following delivery. Urgent resources and special attention are needed to reduce maternal mortality rates and to increase women’s access to health services, especially in rural and poor regions.
While some countries have succeeded in significantly reducing maternal death rates in the past decade, more than half a million women die every year – or one woman every minute – from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. MDG 5, which seeks to improve maternal health, calls for a reduction by three quarters in the maternal mortality ratio from that of 1990, and for the achievement of universal access to reproductive health.
But this is the MDG towards which there has been the least progress so far. This reflects the low priority given to the empowerment of women and meeting women’s needs.
UNICEF figures estimate that the number of child deaths in 2008 declined to 8.8 million from 12.5 million in 1990, the base line year for the Millennium Development Goals. But the global rate of improvement is still insufficient to reach the target of reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds by 2015.
Since 2001, a large majority of countries have integrated issues related to women into their national HIV policies and strategic plans and have attained gender equity in HIV testing and the delivery of anti-retrovirals. But 25 years into the AIDS epidemic, gender inequality and unequal power relationships among women and men continue to have a significant influence on the epidemic.
Globally, about half of all people living with HIV are female, with variations within regions, countries, and communities. In Sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 60 percent of people living with HIV are female and in Southern Africa, girls are 2 to 4.5 times more likely than boys to become infected with HIV.

4. Violence Against Women (VAW)

Since the review of the PFA in 2005, violence against women has been a priority issue at the global, regional, and national levels. Numerous countries have adopted policies on VAW in general, or on particular forms of violence, such as domestic violence, trafficking, female genital mutilation/cutting, and forced marriage. Many states also have incorporated VAW into their national policies on gender equality, health, HIV/AIDS, and migration as part of their overall goals of development.
In 2000, the UN Security Council adoption of Resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions on women, peace ,and security underlines its commitment to ending sexual violence in armed conflict .The global campaign “UNITED to end violence against women” launched by the UN Secretary-General in 2008, will run through 2015. A database was also set up on VAW, a global one-stop site for information on measures taken by member states to address VAW. As of November 2009, more than 80 states have submitted information to the database.
Violence Against Women remains a major global concern to respect the human rights of women and girls. Women and girls experience violence at home, in community and also violence perpetuated by states. The growing presence of “Non-State Actors” role in Violence Against Women is a major concern particularly in Moslem majority countries.

5. Women and armed conflict

The Security Council’s landmark Resolution 1325 in 2000 has been adopted to ensure women’s full participation in the process of peace, security, and the elimination of sexual violence against women in armed conflict. Women’s role in post-conflict peace-building and reconstruction should be protected and promoted. In 2006, the Peace-Building Commission was established with provisions to mandate gender perspectives be included in all aspects of its operation.
As of February 2010, out of 27 United Nations peacekeeping operations, special political missions and peace-building support offices, women headed only 4 missions and were deputy heads of only 5. Some countries emerging from armed conflict have made efforts in promoting women in decision-making positions in government, police force and the parliament. Countries such as Rwanda, Angola, Mozambique, Nepal, Burundi, Timor-Leste ,and Afghanistan, are now among the 30 countries with the highest representation of women in parliament.
Since the Beijing Platform for Action, there have been several Security Council resolutions addressing women’s security needs. In 2000, the Security Council passed Resolution 1325 which established women’s rights in a conflict context as a security matter.
In 2008, Resolution 1820 was the first resolution to recognize conflict-related sexual violence as a matter of international peace and security. In 2009, Resolution 1888 followed. This resolution provides for concrete ways to track progress through establishing a reporting process and a mechanism to hold Governments and the UN accountable. These are landmark resolutions but they are only the beginning of what must be done to ensure the security of women throughout the world
Research by UNIFEM indicates that in 10 major peace processes in the past decade, women were on average six percent of negotiators and under three percent of signatories. Only five peace accords have referred to the use of sexual violence as a military and political tactic, despite its increase in both frequency and brutality.

6. Women and the economy

In 2008, an estimated 52.6 percent of women were in the labor force, compared with 77.5 percent men. Women are more likely than men to have low-paying and low-status jobs. Gender wage-gaps are estimated to be in the range of 3 to 51 percent, with a global average of 17 percent. Women also continue to have disproportionate responsibility for unpaid work, such as home care and care for ill/disabled family members, which hinder them from full participation in education and career-building. During general economic crisis, women also are more vulnerable than men to layoffs and unemployment. Climate change also has impacted negatively on farm women in some parts of the world, where droughts and the securing of water have added hardships to women’s work.
On the positive side, countries have adopted measures through legislature and implementation of policies to address discrimination against women in the workplace, such as sexual harassment, and dismissal due to pregnancy and childbirth. A few states offered the private sector tax and social security incentives for hiring women. Awareness-raising campaigns were also launched for the public through seminars, manuals, and information dissemination.
More women than ever before are participating in the workforce; women occupy almost 40 percent of all paid jobs outside agriculture, compared to 35 percent in 1990. But almost two thirds of women in the developing world work in vulnerable jobs as self-employed persons or as unpaid family workers. In Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, this type of work accounts for more than 80 percent of all jobs for women. In developing countries, women consistently lag behind men in formal labor force participation and entrepreneurship, earn less than men for similar work, and have less access to credit and lower inheritance and ownership rights than men do.
As a result of the global economic crisis, many more women are being pushed into vulnerable jobs with limited or no safety nets that guard against income loss during economic hardship. The large number of women unpaid workers in family businesses also adds to their already heavy burden of unpaid care work in households.

7. Women in power and decision-making

Progress has been made in women’s political participation and decision-making positions. Globally, women held 18.8 percent of seats in single/lower chambers of parliament as of November 2009, as compared to 11.3 percent in 1995.
Women’s parliamentary representation has its greatest gains in the Americas, with 22.6 percent women in parliament, in the European countries with 21.5 percent , in Asia, 18.6 percent, in sub-Saharan Africa 17.8 percent, in the Pacific region 13 percent, and in the Arab States 9 percent.
As of November 2009, women were heads of state in 8 countries and heads of Government in 6 countries. In comparison, in 1995, 12 women were heads of State or Government. In the civil service, women have made progress in representation at the middle managerial levels. The judiciary and law enforcement sector remain mainly male dominated. However at the international level, 9 out of the 18 judges of the International Criminal Court are women, as of November 2009. Women make up 30 percent of the police force in only two countries—Australia and South Africa, with the global average below 10 percent.
Quotas and other temporary measure have been instrumental in increasing women’s representation in public life. Quotas have also been used in civil service recruitment processes, and in the selection of judges. Some member states have made the mandatory requirement that women represent 40 percent of the board of directors of state-owned companies within a specified time frame. Training and capacity development of women leaders as candidates and elected officials in public speaking and fund- raising and other skills have also been pivotal in women’s increased political representation.
Now, more than ever, more women are holding political offices. As of January 2009, women had reached the highest parliamentary position – presiding officer – in 31 parliamentary chambers. By March 2009, 15 women were serving as heads of state or government, up from nine in 2000.
Impressive gains were made in Latin America and the Caribbean, where women hold 22 percent of all legislative seats, the highest regional average. But women still hold less than 10 percent of parliamentary seats in Oceania, Northern Africa, and Western Asia. The global average of women holding parliamentary seats (18.6 percent) is far from the target of 30 percent set in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. At the present rate, it will take another 40 years to reach gender parity.

8. Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women

Increasingly, countries have established institutional mechanisms for gender equality in the legislative branch. Many countries report that all critical areas of concern outlined in Platform for Action (PFA) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) have been addressed by national institutional mechanisms. But the effectiveness of these agencies has been hampered by inadequate human and financial resources. Reliable data are also not available to adequately monitor the implementation of gender equality in all its aspects.

9. Human rights of women

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is the most comprehensive legal frame work for action to promote women’s human rights. With 186 state parties as of December 2009, the Convention is the second most ratified international human rights instrument. Countries have increasingly included in national constitutions and legal reforms the principles of gender equality. Several states have adopted legal provisions prohibiting discrimination against women and women’s legal rights on housing, education, health care, the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, disability, and other social entitlements.
Many states have launched national awareness-raising campaigns to promote women’s human rights and to combat negative attitudes on gender stereotypes. Public media, print, electronic, audio and other means, have been used to spread human rights information on large scale. The increasing cooperation between Governments and NGOs in legal and policy reforms on gender issues has proved to be of great value.
While the GO/NGO representatives from Iran declared that Iran has not ratified CEDAW and will not because it “undermines the role of family,” there was a positive assurance that ratification of CEDAW in US is now closer than it has been in any other time over the last 30 years!

10. Women and the media

Mainstream media is the most important and effective tool to disseminate information. PFA stresses the two strategic objectives to promote women’s rights and educate public attitude on gender stereotypes through the media: “to increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication; and to promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.”
More than a decade after PFA, women worldwide have increased their role in the public media, though employment inequalities between women and men persist, and women continue to be underrepresented in decision-making positions (i.e. in in advisory, management and regulatory bodies of the media industry). Gender stereotypes in the media also persist. The data collected from 76 countries by the Global Media Monitoring Project in 2005 indicated some progress of women in media. For example, women reporters increased from 28 percent in 1995 to 38 percent in 2005 across all media types.
The hot issue of “Women and Social Media “was discussed at two panels organized by Women Intercultural Network. At the panel of titled “Social Media and Social Movement,” it was concluded that based on the current statistics, contrary to women and media, in social media “ WOMEN RULE.”

11. Women and the environment

Some progress in this area has been made as countries are starting to make plans to include women in environmental decision-making, to recognize women’s right to access to natural resources for their livelihoods, their right to property and land ownership, and their right as consumers of agriculture, health and sanitation resources. But the under-representation of women in key positions in environmental agencies has limited their contributions to public policy-making, such as strategies on climate change. There is still a broad gap in public awareness of “gender-specific perspective on natural resources management and of the benefits of gender equality for the promotion of sustainable development and environmental protection.”

12. The Girl child

PFA recognizes the importance of the protection of the basic rights of the girl children, such as education, health, security and the chance to develop their full potential as human beings. In developing regions, the girl child is almost always treated as a lesser human being than her male counterpart.
Countries increasingly have recognized that the laws and legal reforms on the protection of children should include provisions to protect the girl child. A number of African countries and countries with immigrant communities have criminalized female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM)–a special form of violence against the girl child. Some countries enacted laws to prohibit forced marriage, while others raised the legal age of marriage to protect girls.
A growing number of countries have enacted legislation to combat the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography and the trafficking of children. Countries also responded to the risks posed by the Internet by setting up measures and/or cybercrime police units against the spread of pedophilia and pornography.
A growing number of states conducted awareness-raising campaigns to prevent violence against children with public marches, exhibitions, publicized announcements and the creation of specific websites. Crimes and violence against children, especially the girl child, remain wide-spread and unabated. Trafficking, child prostitution, forced early marriage, FGM, and other issues are still issues still to be tackled.
Besides the information the Beijing 15 report provided, by a number of UN sessions and official UN documents, there were a few interesting panels conducted by the NGOs on the latest developments on women.
Sex trafficking of women and young girls was discussed and updated in several panels by the Soroptimist International, The Coalition Against Trafficking of Women, and other NGOs. The two above-mentioned NGOs have done great work and are reputable in their chosen fields. The conclusion of the discussions is that vigilance, legislation, and enforcement of existing laws are all much needed.
Another panel entitled “Voices of Haitian Women” gave perspectives of Haitian women in general and on their role in the crisis in particular. Several panels on pro-life issues, one of which was entitled “Conceived in Rape Symposium,” was the most controversial. The nine panelists who were conceived either in rape and/or incest, gave their testimony of life experiences. Many panels on health and gender equality were also educational and thought-provoking.

CSW/2010 stands out not only as the review year of the Beijing Plus 15, it also could be known as the year of General Chaos at the UN. The delegates of global NGOs had to stay up-to-six-hours-queuing for registration, roped-off corridors, darkened familiar conference rooms, detoured passage- way to unfamiliar rooms, less-than-spirited panel discussions, hard-to-get-admissions to panels, etc.

The CSW 54 ended with lingering questions crying out for answers.
Were there any commitments to protect the universality of women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive rights?
Was there any significant progress on the proposal to set up a separate U.N. agency – officially called a gender entity – for women?
And were there any indications of increased funding for gender-related issues, including resources to battle sexual violence?
The answers were mostly in the realm of political uncertainty, as the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) assessed the state of women’s rights, 15 years after the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing approved a wide-ranging plan of action on gender empowerment.

On the positive side, important issues such as human trafficking, which is no longer seen as an emerging issue, was understood as part of a global space that required attention. An international coalition of over 300 NGOs, mostly made up of women’s rights activists, has been pursuing a global campaign for Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) in the U.N. system. Charlotte Bunch, founding director of the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University and co-facilitator of the GEAR campaign, told TerraViva that decisions about gender architecture reform are part of the system-wide coherence process in the General Assembly.
“So the CSW is not really an arena for formal progress in terms of the resolution,” she said. “However, we do feel there has been a lot of progress in terms of gaining more governmental support and attention to this issue during the CSW.”
For example, she said, a significant number of countries from all regions spoke in support of the new architecture in their speeches. The secretary-general himself called on governments to take action to create the entity without further delay, she pointed out. Bunch said the NGO action – holding up a ‘GEAR UP NOW!’ sign in the balcony during his speech on International Women’s Day on March 3rd – was greeted with enthusiastic applause from the audience and a wave from the U.N. Chief.
Natalia Cardona of Social Watch, an international network made up of coalitions of civil society, said as far as her organization was concerned, the CSW was a success because “it captured the dynamism of women’s activism at the highest level.”
“There is no other place where women activists can come together and discuss women’s human rights situation from all over the world,” she said.
However, the space in terms of government accountability and government accessibility has dwindled since 1995 when the world conference on women was able to make key advances in terms of women’s rights as enshrined in the Beijing Platform for Action. There is a sense now in the women’s movement that this 15th anniversary of the Beijing Conference was not much of an anniversary.

All in all, CSW 54 and Beijing plus 15 was a success but huge political challenges are ahead of global women’s movement to hold their governments accountable for their commitments at Beijing.

(This article used many NGO reports and other media sources including UN agencies and NGO forum documents)

Drought Adds to Hardships in California

Published: February 21, 2009

MENDOTA, Calif. — The country’s biggest agricultural engine, California’s sprawling Central Valley, is being battered by the recession like farmland most everywhere. But in an unlucky strike of nature, the downturn is being deepened by a severe drought that threatens to drive up joblessness, increase food prices and cripple farms and towns.

Across the valley, towns are already seeing some of the worst unemployment in the country, with rates three and four times the national average, as well as reported increases in all manner of social ills: drug use, excessive drinking and rises in hunger and domestic violence.

With fewer checks to cash, even check-cashing businesses have failed, as have thrift stores, ice cream parlors and hardware shops. The state has put the 2008 drought losses at more than $300 million, and economists predict that this year’s losses could swell past $2 billion, with as many as 80,000 jobs lost.

“People are saying, ‘Are you a third world country?’ ” said Robert Silva, the mayor of Mendota, which has a 35 percent unemployment rate, up from the more typical seasonal average of about 20 percent. “My community is dying on the vine.”

Even as rains have washed across some of the state this month, greening some arid rangeland, agriculture officials say the lack of rain and the prospect of minimal state and federal water supplies have already led many farmers to fallow fields and retreat into survival mode with low-maintenance and low-labor crops.

Last year, during the second year of the drought, more than 100,000 acres of the 4.7 million in the valley were left unplanted, and experts predict that number could soar to nearly 850,000 acres this year.

All of which could mean shorter supplies and higher prices in produce aisles — California is the nation’s biggest producer of tomatoes, almonds, avocados, grapes, artichokes, onions, lettuce, olives and dozens of other crops — and increased desperation for people like Agustin Martinez, a 20-year veteran of the fields who generally makes $8 an hour picking fruit and pruning.

“If I don’t have work, I don’t live,” said Mr. Martinez, a 39-year-old father of three who was waiting in a food line in Selma, southeast of Fresno. “And all the work is gone.”

In Mendota, the self-described cantaloupe center of the world, a walk through town reveals young men in cowboy hats loitering, awaiting the vans that take workers to the fields. None arrive.

The city’s main drag has a few quiet businesses — a boxing gym, a liquor store — and tellingly, two busy pool halls. The owner of one hall, Joseph R. Riofrio, said that his family had also long owned a grocery and check-cashing business in town, but that he had just converted to renting movies, figuring that people would rather stay at home in hard times.

“We’re not going to give up,” Mr. Riofrio said. “But people are doing bad.”

Just down the highway in Firebaugh, José A. Ramírez, the city manager, said a half-dozen businesses in its commercial core had closed, decimating the tax base and leaving him to “tell the Little League they’d have to paint their own lines” on the local diamond.

The situation is particularly acute in towns along the valley’s western side, where farmers learned on Friday that federal officials anticipate a “zero allocation” of water from the Central Valley Project, the huge New Deal system of canals and reservoirs that irrigates three million acres of farmland. If the estimate holds and springtime remains dry, it would be first time ever that farmers faced a season-long cutoff from federal waters.

“Farmers are very resilient, we make things happen, but we’ve never had a zero allocation,” said Stephen Patricio, president of Westside Produce, a melon handler and harvester. “And I might not be very good at math, but zero means zero.”

While California has suffered severe dry spells before, including a three-year stint ending in 1977 and a five-year drought in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the ill effects now are compounded by the recession and other factors.

Federal, state and local officials paint a grim picture of a system taxed as it has never been before by a growing population, environmental concerns and a labyrinth of water supply contracts and agreements, some dating to the early 20th century. In addition to the federal water supplies, farmers can irrigate with water provided by the state authorities, drawn from wells and bought or transferred from other farmers. Such water may not always be the best quality, said Mark Borba, a fourth-generation farmer in Huron, Calif.

“But it’s wet,” he said.

A New Earth

From Redwood Mary,  Co-Chair CAWA Environment Task Force

Some thoughts:

” Your goal has to be to get the greenest solutions to the poorest people”.- Van Jones (The New Yorker interview with Elizabeth Kolbert 1-12-09)

“You must not deal only with the symptoms. You have to get to the root causes by promoting environmental rehabilitation and empowering people to do things for themselves. What is done for the people without involving them cannot be sustained.” Dr. Wangari Maathai- 2004 Nobel Prize for Peace

Awakening to a different level of awareness is the key to
A NEW EARTH

And lest we forget about the very life giving interconnected ecosystems that give us life.

We are all tired of the hierarchies, the snarkies, the hypocrites, the bigots, the shysters, the ghettos, the corporate loan sharks, the big man politics, the drug dealers and all the fighting for crumbs while the  wealth  gets concentrated in the hand of the few while the whole shebang is going down the tubes. Planet Earth is the Titanic – there are no life boats. It is time to stop re-arranging the deck chairs. It is not up to Obama — it is  up to us.

Here is a wonderful start: In order to create real deep change
look at our own insanity.
Eckhart Tolle presents in his book The New Earth one of the most honest explorations of the current state of humanity: He implores us to see and accept that this state, which is based on an erroneous identification with the egoic mind, is one of dangerous insanity.
Tolle tells us there is good news, however. There is an alternative to this potentially dire situation. Humanity now, perhaps more than in any previous time, has an opportunity to create a new, saner, more loving world. This will involve a radical inner leap from the current egoic consciousness to an entirely new one.

In illuminating the nature of this shift in consciousness, Tolle describes in detail how our current ego-based state of consciousness operates. Then gently, and in very practical terms, he leads us into this new consciousness. We will come to experience who we truly are-which is something infinitely greater than anything we currently think we are-and learn to live and breathe freely.

How I wish to sound smart and intellectual and maybe write a book or two? But what is the point? We all know it is  time to end the fighting, the classicism, the racisms, the sexisms, the homophobia, the nature phobia, the greed, the selfishness, nationalism,  and our addictions and etc.

It is time for humanity to wake up, grow up and share and  clean up its mess, take care of each other and take care of our brother sister species all over the planet.  No awards–no 15 seconds of fame… just do it just because.

It time to honor Brother Sun and Sister Moon and  the miracle of a blade of grass and the fish in the sea and you and me. It is time to put down the bombs and the guns and the addictions and stock market ticker tape and  build gardens together and repair the earth.

It is time to stop blowing up mountains or digging deep in the earth for bloody oil  or for gold or for diamonds and build decent thoughtful  AFFORDABLE eco-housing  and eco-villages and solar energy stations. It is time to give up the Jaguars  and SUV’s and private planes and $500 night hotels.  And don’t forget the Arts!  How about armies of musicians filling the world with Samba and smooth Jazz?

It is time to stop making a buck off the back of workers and mother earth. It is time to put the Earth First and no compromise!  It is time to stop, think and understand that we have the power to change ourselves first then the world, our cities our villages own neighborhoods will change. Will it be easy? heck no. How do we start? With our words, the stories we tell oursleves and each other. The roots of peace and  re-connecting with earth start with a shift in individual conciousness, a willingness to look deeply at our habits and privelege and then inspiring each other, forgiving each other, encouraging each other, praising each other to step outside of our own fear.

It is the “end time” for using our words to continue to create separation.  OUR WORDS ARE POWERFUL. We need to take responsibility to stop the words of hate,  to stop the language of self depreciation and abuse that we fling around and time to start to create healing and peace through our words and actions.  We are all wounded all over the planet. No one is untouched by war and crime and hate and poverty.

“Teach this triple truth to all” said Gautama Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C..: “A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity”. Jesus preached “Love thy neighbor as thyself”. Do also remember that Gaia, Mother Earth is a living planet and she rules—not us.

“Imagine” (Thank You John Lennon), that you are Mother Theresa, Ama, Desmond Tutu, Wangari Mathaai, Jesus and Buddha, and Joshsua Bell, Angelina Jolie, Princess Di,  Bill Gates, Martin Luther King Jr.…Work together , dance together, heal and STOP WAR…close prisons and turn them into healing centers and make all Universities FREE….Just Do it !

We don’t need slave labor, wage slaves, sex slaves and unsafe working conditions. We have cheap stuff all over the place and we are fouling our nest with all this stuff and for what?  Ipod’s, HDTV, Big Macs,  Big Gulps, Game Boys, CD, DVD’s, computers—all more stuff to  stuff ourselves with and make us better and smarter species?

So it is up to us– to decide what we will develop, sustain and encourage.

Californians Shape Up as Force on Environmental Policy

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by: Lyndsey Layton, The Washington Post,  TRUTHOUT, December 31, 2008

(Check out our WIN Weblog (https://winwomenspeak.wordpress.com/) for this article and comment – how will you be involved in this environmental policy making effort in California?   )

California Democrats will assume pivotal roles in the new Congress and White House, giving the state an outsize influence over federal policy and increasing the likelihood that its culture of activist regulation will be imported to Washington.

In Congress, Democrats from the Golden State are in key positions to write laws to mitigate global warming, promote “green” industries and alternative energy, and crack down on toxic chemicals. Down Pennsylvania Avenue, Californians in the new White House will shape environmental, energy and workplace safety policies.

“It’s unique in terms of the power of this state in modern times,” said James A. Thurber, who directs the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. To find another example of a state wielding such national influence, Thurber had to reach back to Texas in the 1950s, when Sam Rayburn was the House speaker and Lyndon B. Johnson was the Senate majority leader.

The current speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is the most prominent member of the California delegation. As leader of a sometimes fractious caucus, Pelosi has had to find common ground between conservative and liberal Democrats. But she has been firm about her intention to bring the kind of climate-change legislation embraced by California to the national level, and she was quietly supportive when a California colleague, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, pushed out Rep. John D. Dingell of Michigan to become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In a November caucus election, Waxman narrowly beat Dingell, who held the chair for 16 years and was seen by critics as too protective of the auto industry. Waxman, who has crafted an image as a champion of consumers, taxpayers and the environment, takes over next month. Energy and Commerce handles more than half of the legislation that flows through Congress. Its sprawling portfolio includes climate change, air quality and health matters – issues that have consumed policymakers in California.

Waxman’s counterpart in the Senate is Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee. “California has always valued protecting the environment and health and safety of our people,” Boxer said in a telephone interview. “The people from California who are coming here to work on this and Congressman Waxman and myself, we are very strong on this.”

Obama has chosen Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to be energy secretary, and he tapped Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Nancy Sutley to run the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality. Obama also selected Rep. Hilda L. Solis, a Democrat from Los Angeles, to become labor secretary, charged with enforcing workplace safety laws, among other duties. And Christina D. Romer, a University of California at Berkeley economist, will chair the Council of Economic Advisers.

One longtime Capitol Hill observer cautioned that although these Californians are in key positions to shape federal policy, they don’t necessarily share a single California philosophy. Still, they have been shaped by experience in a state that has led the nation in regulatory policy.

Since the 1970s, when it became the first state in the country to set its own auto emissions standards under the federal Clean Air Act, California has been considered a trendsetter.

When the state tried last year to set tougher emissions standards that would cut tailpipe emissions by 30 percent by 2016, 12 other states followed suit. The Bush administration denied the states, which are hoping the Obama administration or the new Congress will reverse that decision.

After the state banned a class of chemicals, phthalates, from children’s products last year, 12 states introduced similar bans.

This month, California regulators took the initial steps toward the nation’s first comprehensive plan to curb greenhouse gases. The strategy creates a system of trading pollution permits and cutting emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Details of the plan are still under development. The next day, state regulators approved the most stringent rules in the country governing emissions from diesel trucks and buses.

The California ban on phthalates inspired Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D- Calif.) to successfully push for a federal prohibition, which takes effect in February. It is a rarity – the first time Congress has banned a chemical in decades – and it faced stiff and well-financed opposition from Exxon Mobil, which makes one of the banned chemicals.

Even though Feinstein was not on the conference committee that resolved differences between House and Senate versions of the legislation, she worked behind the scenes to make sure the phthalates ban stayed in the final version, said Janet Nudelman of the Breast Cancer Fund, which pushed the bill.

“She made it clear that phthalates wasn’t ‘trade bait’ between negotiators,” Nudelman said. “The phthalates ban was an example of Feinstein, Boxer and Waxman literally reaching across houses to strategize and secure passage of a very controversial piece of legislation that no one thought had a chance of passing.”

Boxer said the public should not expect a flood of new legislation modeled on California statutes, but rather a renewed effort to enforce existing consumer protection and workplace safety rules and environmental laws.

“It’s not a question of passing new landmark laws,” Boxer said. “It’s a matter of getting these agencies back in gear. We have great tools, but they have not been functioning. For the past eight years, they’ve been sitting idle. The Californians coming, they don’t have to rewrite the laws. They just have to enforce them. It’s like the EPA has been asleep for eight years. The Californians are coming to wake the sleeping beauty.”

Still, there will be revisions to existing laws and some new bills. Environmentalists and industry expect Waxman, Boxer, Pelosi, Sutley and the others to take on the oil and gas companies.

Barbara Sinclair, a political scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles, said the Californians are pragmatic and mindful of overreaching. “All these folks really want to make policy change,” she said. “On the other hand, they very, very much want to stay in power.” The most ambitious effort is likely to be a cap-and- trade bill that will sell emissions permits to industry with the aim of reducing carbon dioxide and other pollutants. Boxer introduced a version that died after debate in June. She intends to introduce a revised version in the new Congress, probably in concert with Waxman, who had written his own climate-change bill in the last session.

Waxman and Boxer joined Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) in sponsoring the Kids Safe Chemicals Act in the last Congress and plan to reintroduce it in the new year. The legislation seeks to reform chemical policy to require industry to prove chemicals are safe before they are used in commerce. Currently, the government must prove that a chemical is unsafe before it can be pulled from the market. The Lautenberg bill would put the burden on industry to prove a chemical’s safety. The bill is modeled after a law in Europe but follows the same approach as a “green chemistry” law passed by California earlier this year.

Roger Martella, a former EPA general counsel who is an attorney for many corporations affected by environmental regulation, calls Waxman, Pelosi and Boxer a “trifecta” that could craft significant new government action.

“Whether at the end of the day every policy that California has gets implemented on a national level is a matter for debate,” Martella said. “At the same time, we’d be foolish to ignore those stars are lining up.”