IoS letters, emails and online postings (15 March 2015)


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Thank you for reminding us that International Women’s Day is a celebration of how far we have come as well as a rallying call for more action (“Good news for us all”, 8 March).

Yet there is patently further to go, and only with women’s full participation and leadership will equality be secured. How disappointing, then, that the women’s movement was excluded from the drafting of the Political Declaration at last week’s United Nations Commission on the Status of Women held in New York. This was a missed opportunity to commit to tackle violence in the home and in public spaces, and the increasing devastation to women’s lives wrought by climate change and conflict which are among the main factors undermining women’s rights today in poor countries.

But there is a chance to right this wrong. Later this year governments will meet to agree Sustainable Development Goals on combatting poverty and climate change. Gender equality must be central to both if we are to see transformative change for women’s rights worldwide.

Lucia Fry

Head of policy, ActionAid UK, London EC1

Why was I not surprised to find that the author of the article “Poverty forces record number of women into low-paid jobs” (8 March) was a man?

The article included the sentence: “While a third of self-employed women are in high-skilled jobs, cleaning, childminding and hairdressing are the commonest jobs.” I would assert that these jobs all require a high level of skill, and, sadly, it is an all too common belief, among men in particular, who rarely do these jobs, that they must involve little skill. Such a lazy, sexist assumption is one of the reasons why these jobs are often poorly paid.

Dr Sally Cheseldine

Balerno, Edinburgh

An agonised cry of “it’s all women!” came from the kitchen last Sunday as my husband flicked through his paper. In the 43 years I have known him he has always treated women as equals at work or socially and has as much interest in their writings or artworks as those of men. He doesn’t like being forced to do anything, and that includes reading a paper all about women. For me, it did look dull – except for the landscape man Robert Macfarlane in The New Review. Oops! Does that sound sexist?

Margaret Fox

Ripon, North Yorkshire

In the past when women have married men from the Middle East, gone to live there, become disillusioned and tried to return, it has been difficult for British governments and organisations to help. Even when Middle East governments are friendly, their male-biased traditions make rescue hard.

If the three London schoolgirls tire of life as jihadi brides, it will be almost impossible for the UK government to get them out. The only reasons for the UK to want these girls back would be to extract information, and to send them round schools to explain their change of heart. For precisely these reasons Islamic State (Isis) is unlikely to allow them out.

If, however, Isis did allow women to leave, it might be with the threat that if they revealed information or spoke disparagingly of Isis, the remaining jihadi brides would be executed. This would be consistent with the practice of some Islamist groups of preventing the victims of repeated rape from committing suicide by threatening to murder their families. It is unfair to criticise western governments and authorities for not knowing what to do. The situation is unprecedented. It may take some time for them to work out how to deal with such evil forces.

Margaret Brown

Burslem, Staffordshire

John Rentoul objects to any links between Labour and the SNP after the election (8 March). In 1974-9 Labour relied not just on Liberals but Ulster Unionists to stay in office, something that required a number of expedient policies. However, an austerity-focused politics continued uninterrupted. Perhaps the SNP will challenge that, but little in the way they have run Scotland in recent times suggests this will be the case.

Keith Flett

London N17