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A R T I C L E S* &* S P E E C H E S
U. S. Government Follow-up to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women: March 1997 Summary Update on Key Initiatives

by The Presidentís Interagency Council on Women


On August 26, 1995, prior to the opening of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, President Clinton announced the formation of an interagency "Womenís Council." This inter-governmental body was charged with implementing the U.S. commitment announced at the Beijing Conference and with developing related initiatives to further womenís progress. The President said:

"The (Womenís) Conference is going to talk about education and domestic violence and grass-roots economics, employment, health care, political participation ... And we donít intend to walk away from it when itís over. Iím going to establish an interagency council to make sure that all the effort and the good ideas actually get implemented when we come back home."

The Council is composed of high-level representatives from the Federal agencies. On September 28, 1996, the Council sponsored a national conference via satellite to report on progress made, share whatís working in local communities, and to hear from participants about their ideas to improve the lives of women and their families. (Note: On March 8th, 1997 in the Oval Office the President received the report from the Council. At that time he announced the Councilís continuation under a new chair, Secretary Madeleine Albright; First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will continue as its honorary chair.)

WOMEN IN THE PAID LABOR FORCE:

Working Women Count Honor Roll: The Department of Labor Womenís Bureauís Honor Roll campaign resulted in over 1300 pledges from nonprofit organizations, businesses, elected government officials, labor unions, media organizations, and on-line computer services. The Final Report will be published in 1997 identifying private and public employment policies benefiting women in the areas of valuing women and womenís work, balancing work and family, and fair pay (with emphasis on fair pay).

Wage Enforcement Initiatives: The Department of Laborís Wage and Hour Division will work to increase compliance in 1997 in: (1) the garment industry; (2) agriculture; and (3) nursing home industry. Large numbers of women are employed in these low-wage industries where the most vulnerable people and worst violations are found. The initiatives involve a multi-pronged strategy of enforcement, education/outreach, and recognition to boost compliance rates.

Retirement Savings Education Campaign: "Save! Your Retirement Clock is Ticking," the Labor Departmentís retirement saving campaign, launched in 1996 in coalition with over 150 organizations, signed an agreement with the National Council of Negro Women to provide grassroots assistance and information to NCNW centers around the country and conduct future workshops. The campaign distributed information booklets, developed a Internet web site (http://www.asec.org/), and is launching a national media campaign tailored to reach women about pensions.

Enforcement Effort to End Gender Discrimination in Compensation: The Labor Department will focus efforts at every level of the corporate ladder of Federal contractors and subcontractors. Between now and the year 2000 it will use women and men in a two-year test initiative to determine if similarly qualified women and men are treated differently in interviewing and hiring.

Working Womenís Rights: The Womenís Bureauís "Donít Work in the Dark Campaign" informs working women about their legal rights, providing information on sexual harassment, family and medical leave, pregnancy discrimination, and wage, age and disability discrimination. In 1997 it will publish a major report on downsizing, analyzing the effects on employed women of downsizing, business mergers in an internationally competitive environment, and the labor force entrance of former welfare recipients. The new Fair Pay Clearinghouse provides publications and includes a computerized database of information on: wages and occupations, resource organizations, employer profiles, and state fair pay laws. The Internet site is http://www.dol.gov/dol/wb .

UNWAGED WORK:

The Departments of Labor and Commerce have begun consultations on the construction of reliable estimates of unwaged work, exploring the applicability of information used by statistical agencies in other countries and how to best utilize U.S. expertise on time-use studies. Cognitive research on time-use diaries is underway by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as is a limited pilot time-use survey to be conducted in 1997. The BLS also is developing a framework for carrying out future research on the output method of measuring non-market work. An interagency group has developed detailed descriptions of topical areas for papers for a proposed Fall 1997 conference of experts on estimating the value of non-market work in order to add to the body of information that U.S. statistical agencies would need.

WOMENíS BUSINESS OWNERSHIP:

Presidential Awards Program: The President through the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, established the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Microenterprise Development to honor outstanding efforts in the U.S. The first Awards were presented in January, 1997 at a White House ceremony. Awards were made to different types of programs representing the broad diversity of the field of microenterprise development. Best practices from the winning programs are being disseminated.

Information on Womenís Business Ownership: The Interagency Committee on Womenís Business Enterprise and the National Womenís Business Councilís newsletter, "The Partnership," provides information on Federal programs. The home page of the Small Business Administrationís Office of Womenís Business Ownership (http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/womeninbusiness) provides on-line access to opportunities. The Interagency Committee developed a Procurement Pilot Project for Women, in conjunction with SBAís Office of Government Contracting. SBA will hold training seminars for women on procurement at its district offices in the next few years.

Womenís Business Ownership: The SBAís five year plan goals are: improving access to capital; enhancing education, counseling, and information; and serving as a strong advocate, particularly by providing procurement and research opportunities.

Export Assistance: The International Trade Administration is conducting an outreach effort to womenís business organizations to inform them of the export assistance services offered by the Department of Commerce and to encourage members of the organizations to become active exporters.

Trade Missions: The Department of Commerceís new Women in Trade Business Development Missions are working to ensure that women-owned businesses are represented on high-level trade missions.

Rural Women: The Department of Agriculture is expanding its outreach to women to participate in the agricultural economy. Programs, such as the investment program in the Agricultural Marketing Service and commodity purchases for USDA -administered domestic and international food programs, are engaging women entrepreneurs in banking and commodity marketing. USDA is also increasing participation by women farmers/ranchers in its Small Farmer/Rancher Outreach Training and Technical Assistance Program, which is designed to improve farm incomes through better farm management and financial analysis skills.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN:

Spouse Abuse: The Department of Defense hosted its first conference on spouse abuse in July, 1996, focusing on prevention, intervention and research findings from DODís study of spouse abuse. A second conference in February, 1997, reviewed current DOD policy and approaches to providing treatment when abuse occurs.

DNA Research for Paternity Determination and Rapist Identification: The Department of Commerceís National Institute of Standards and Technology is conducting research in DNA standards and measurement to ensure accurate DNA measurements for use by the judicial system and law enforcement.

Guidance on Student Sexual Harassment: In August 1996, the Department of Education issued draft guidance for students titled "Sexual Harassment Guidance: Peer Sexual Harassment." Draft policy guidance is in preparation addressing issues related to sexual harassment of students by teachers and other school employees.

Implementation of the Violence Against Women Act: President Clinton established the Violence Against Women Office at the Department of Justice to lead a comprehensive effort to fight domestic and other forms of violence by combining tough Federal laws with state and local assistance in law enforcement, victim assistance, prosecutions and crime prevention. Initiatives include:

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline nationwide, 24-hour, toll-free number ((1-800) 799-SAFE or (1- 800) 787-3224 [TDD]).
  • Under the S.T.O.P. Violence Against Women grant program, each sate and territory has received $426,000 in grant funding to assist police, prosecutors, and victim service providers in combating domestic violence and sexual assault. Grants of $75,000 each went to 14 Indian tribes. By September, 1996, additional awards amounting to $130 million had gone to all but seven states and territories.
  • An interim rule published by the Immigration and Naturalization Service in May 1996 allows battered spouses and children of citizens or legal permanent residents to self-petition to become legal permanent residents themselves. This renders it unnecessary for family members eligible for permanent residency to rely on an abuser to remain in the U.S.
  • Department of Health and Human Services program under the Violence Against Women Act include grants for battered womenís shelters; education and prevention grants to reduce sexual assault against women; coordinated community responses to prevent intimate partner violence; and grants to develop educational model curricula.

Female Genital Mutilation:

  • In June 1996, the Board of Immigration Appeals, with the urging of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, issued a precedent-setting decision that female genital mutilation may be a basis for asylum. Subject to the BIAís ruling, the INS will recognize that certain potential victims of FGM may establish eligibility for asylum and the withholding of deportation.
  • Effective April 1997, the performance of FGM in the U.S. on girls under the age of 18 is illegal.
  • HHS is conducting outreach to affected communities within the U.S. to educate the public about health issues associated with FGM.
  • In 1997, USAID and the State Department will develop a joint policy on female genital mutilation aimed at reducing the incidence of it through diplomatic, development and immigration channels.
  • As part of a priority objective to reduce violence against women, the Senior Coordinator for International Womenís Issues has established an intergovernmental working group on female genital mutilation. U.S. policy is to work in collaboration with community organizations and governments who are committed to eradicating this practice.

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence: To address the alarming percentage of homicides as the leading cause of death on the job for women, the Department of Labor released "Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care and Social Service Workers" last March. It has released draft guidelines for preventing workplace violence in the night retail industry. The guidelines are scheduled to be finalized in FY 1997. This is a voluntary incentive program, but where adopted it will have a high impact on the occupational safety and health of women in this industry.

Databases: Under the National Stalker and Domestic Violence Reduction Program, $1.5 million is being awarded by the Justice Department to states for improving the processes for entering data regarding stalking and domestic violence into local, state and national crime information databases.

TRAFFICKING AND SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN:

Child Prostitution:

  • Department of Defense has issued programmatic steps for DOD training programs and requires Military Services to carry out a program that underscores the Departmentís commitment to combatting the child prostitution industry and ensuring that no DOD personnel knowingly or unknowingly support such activity.
  • In 1997, the Department of Laborís International Labor Affairs Bureau expects to provide support for two innovative programs which assist young girls at risk of being lured into prostitution. Both programs will draw the support of a wide range of actors to combat child prostitution: NGOs, teachers, organizations, and officials.
  • The U.S. delegation to the World Congress on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Children in Stockholm in August, 1996, included representatives from the Departments of State, Labor, Justice, Defense and the Presidentís Interagency Council on Women. The delegation held productive meetings with American NGOs and is continuing to meet as a working group in Washington to explore ways to develop policy and to coordinate on these issues. It met again with the NGO community in November.
  • The U.S. is currently involved in numerous bilateral, regional and multilateral initiatives to protect the rights of all migrants and to help deter trafficking in persons. In the areas of migration and enforcement, for instance, as part of an ongoing anti-crime training and technical assistance program, the State Department is hosting a joint US-Russia seminar on the judicial issues involved in the exploitation of women and children.

HEALTH:

The Department of Health and Human Services has made improving womenís health a top priority, taking a comprehensive, science-based approach to address longstanding inequities. HHS has established womenís health coordinators in its agencies and regional offices; created the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Womenís Heath; and is establishing the National Womenís Health Information Center. Key HHS initiatives include:

Breast Cancer:

  • The National Action Plan on Breast Cancer is a coordinated national strategy to combat breast cancer through public/private partnerships. Projects have been developed to improve information dissemination, increase womenís participation in clinical trials, investigate the causes of breast cancer, and improve consumer involvement in policy, research and services.

  • Increased funding for research and program from $90 million in 1990 to over $500 million in 1996.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program offers nationwide free or low-cost mammography screening to low-income elderly and minority women.

  • The Food and Drug Administration, under the Mammography Quality Standards Act, now certifies all mammography machines in the U.S. for effectiveness.

  • HHS-supported research led to the isolation of BRCA1, a gene linked to breast cancer in 5 to 10% of cases.

  • HHS is working with other Federal agencies, including NASA, the Defense Department and the CIA, as well as private companies, to adapt high-tech imaging technology to improve the early detection of cancer in women.

HIV/AIDS:

  • HHS has made a long-term, $100 million commitment to research and development of topical microbiocides to help women protect themselves against HIV infection. Other research includes breast feeding associated with HIV transmission; women and infants transmission study; AIDS related cancers and adolescent HIV research.

  • Physicians are being urged to counsel all pregnant women on the benefit of HIV testing. An informational campaign is informing pregnant HIV infected women and health care providers of the risks and benefits of ZDV (AZT) therapy.

Reproductive Health:

  • Family Planning Information and Access. HHS supports the provision of reproductive health and family planning services to nearly 5 million people per year through the Title X program. Services include medical care related to contraception, infertility, STDs and HIV, as well as general reproductive health care and education, counseling and referral services. The program will supplement existing community-based programs to develop effective approaches for providing family planning education and services to males.

  • RU-486. The Food and Drug Administration determined that submitted clinical data demonstrate the safety and efficacy of mifepristone - in combination with misoprostol when used under close medical supervision - for the termination of early pregnancy. The FDA is requiring additional data on other issues before a final approval decision.

Key initiatives of the Department of Health and Human Services include:

Reproductive Health:

  • Teen Pregnancy. In 1997, HHS launched its National Strategy to Prevent Teen Pregnancy - a comprehensive plan to prevent teen pregnancies and encourage adolescents to remain abstinent. Two HHS supported programs are the Community Family Life Program. New funding for these programs in FY 1997 will help 13 community coalition partnerships to implement their action plans and enable communities to develop and implement about 100 abstinence-based education and demonstration projects throughout the country.

  • Prevention of Nicotine Addiction among Children and Teens: The regulations are in place to restrict the sale and distribution of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to protect children and adolescents. These regulations include requiring age verification by photo ID by anyone under the age of 27; banning vending machines and self-service displays except in "adult" facilities where persons under 18 are not allowed; banning free samples; prohibiting outdoor advertising within 1,000 feet of schools and public playgrounds; permitting black and white text only in advertising publications with significant youth readership, meaning more than 15 percent or more than 2 million readers under 18; prohibiting sales and distribution of non- tobacco items such as products like caps; limiting sponsorships of sporting and other events to the corporate name.

  • Clinical Research Trials: HHS has a continuing commitment to increasing research on womenís health issues and the requirement that women be included in clinical research trials. Special initiatives include trials of hormone replacement therapy to reduce heart disease risk factors in postmenopausal women; calcium supplementation; trials of vitamin E, beta-carotene, and aspirin for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in women. Sometimes, the topic of the study is of such relevance that the patient population will consist primarily or entirely of women, such as studies of diet, nutrition and obesity in African American women, treatment strategies for osteoporosis, effects of exercise on pregnancy, studies of premenstrual syndrome, and the effect of Norplant on risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

EDUCATION:

At-risk Women and Girls: The Department of Education is committed to these future initiatives for women and girls at risk of failure in obtaining and /or completing their education and employment training: Education and career awareness programs and opportunities; counseling and advising program in prevention and treatment of alcohol and substance abuse, dealing with peer pressure, self-esteem; mentoring; reducing teen pregnancy and high school dropout rates.

Gender Equity:

  • The Department of Education will support research on alternative school structures and their relationship to student achievement, and will continue to learn more about the nature and causes of gender inequities. It will continue to support the creation of gender-fair curricula materials and teaching techniques.

  • The recently instituted Gender Equity Expert Panel will designate, disseminate and publicize promising and exemplary products, programs, and practices.

Nurturing a New Generation of Women Leaders:

  • The Department of Education will establish a Coalition on Womenís Leadership to encourage policies and practices that increase leadership positions for women. The coalition will foster collaboration among federal and state agencies, educational institutions, including schools of business and public administration, education associations, and other stake holders with involvement in implementing programs in womenís leadership training and professional development/
  • The DOE and the Social Security Administration co-sponsored an International Leadership Forum for Women with Disabilities in June in Washington. The forum addressed overcoming obstacles of employment, education and training, adequate health care and other issues, and developed leadership skills.

Science Literacy: The Department of the Interiorís Womenís Council has established a pilot project for primary and secondary school students aimed at science literacy and natural resource management careers.

 

 

 

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