Recent international visitors to the NOW Action Center included a group of women from Japan.Photo: Recent international visitors to the NOW Action Center included a group of women from Japan. NOW Action Vice President Rosemary Dempsey, front row third from left, who led a demonstration in Japan last June against Mitsubishi Motor Corp., and NOW President Patricia Ireland met with the women and discussed international feminist issues, such as sexual harassment.

One year after the record-breaking and precedent-setting U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women, NOW activists attended a follow-up satellite teleconference at various sites nationwide. NOW Membership Vice President Karen Johnson joined more than 400 women at the conference site in our nation's capital.

During this day-long event activists met in working groups and shared strategies. Of continuing concern is the ratification of the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) by the U.S. Senate. Sen. Jesse Helms, R-NC., chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is the source of inactivity on this treaty.

It Pays to Vote

In a visit with NOW Vice President-Membership Karen Johnson, Australian Senator Sue Mackay touted the 99 percent voting participation in her country. It's no wonder: Voting is mandatory in Australia, and people not voting are fined. In U.S. elections in 1996, 49 percent of eligible voters voted. Other figures from the Land Down Under also eclipse ours in the U.S. The Australian Senate is 25 percent female, and the Australian House is 15 percent female, compared to nine percent women in the U.S. Senate and 11 percent in the House.

Feds outlaw FGM

Female genital mutilation (FGM) will be against federal law as of April 1, thanks to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.

Congress outlawed the performance of FGM on girls under 18. The Immigration and Naturalization Service must provide any visa-holder arriving from a country where FGM is widely practiced information on both the harmful physical and psychological effects of FGM and on the penalties for allowing or practicing FGM on a child.

Establishing Global Awareness

Work is in progress at the NOW Action Center on a chapter development report offering information on global issues. The report will contain suggestions for heightening sensitivity at the local level on ethnic and cultural issues, as well as contacts for global organizations that are available as chapter resources.

NOW staff regularly meet with visitors from other countries, including groups that want to find out how NOW is funded and structured, so they can take ideas home and spread an international women's movement. Recent visitors have been from Japan, Germany, Russia, Israel, Austria, Kazakhstan, Tunisia and Ecuador.

While NOW's bylaws have provisions for establishing international chapters, the nuts and bolts of setting them up have yet to be worked out. Several NOW interns have been researching how other U.S.-based organizations with international affiliates are structured and will prepare a report for the National NOW Board of Directors and officers

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