National NOW Times >> Fall 2002 >> Article
by Joy Nadler, Communications Intern
Capital City NOW
In August, Capital City NOW demonstrated in front of the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, D.C., to protest religious extremists in Nigeria who threaten to stone unmarried women as punishment for having sex. Activists carried signs stating "Rocks Are For GardensNot For Killing Women!"
An Islamic high court, acting under the barbaric Sharia laws, rejected an appeal from Amina Lawal, a single mother sentenced to be stoned to death for bearing a child out of wedlock. Because the man she named as the father of the child denied paternity, charges against him were dismissed.
At least two other women in Nigeria have faced similar charges. Each of these women are poor, uneducated, single mothers from small rural villages. Capital City NOW encouraged activists to tell Nigeria to stop stoning women by sending a message and a rock or pebble to the embassy. The address is: President Olusegun Obasanjo, c/o Ambassador Jibril Aminn, Embassy of Nigeria, 1333 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036.
In Tampa, Fla., NOW members participated in a peaceful demonstration expressing their concerns about Promise Keepers' leadership and its sexist views of women. The first three demonstrators to arrive at the scene were Eleanor Cecil, Anthony Mazzo and Toni Van Pelt, who were soon handcuffed and arrested by the police, long before the other demonstrators had arrived.
The three were held in a police car for nearly an hour before they were released and all were charged with misdemeanor trespassing. The group of protesters had contacted local authorities before the event to secure permission for the demonstrators to be at the rally.
NOW activists and allies have joined together many times before to protest the Promise Keepers belief in the "submission" of women to their husbands; however, never before has anyone been arrested. When they appeared in court, Cecil, Mazzo and Van Pelt agreed to do community service by volunteering at their local NOW chapter.
Philadelphia NOW's Celebration of Local Women Activists last spring honored the work of Francesca Alvarado, an executive board member of Philadelphia NOW and the local Coalition of Labor Union Women, Phoebe Schellenberg, the Philadelphia director of the International Wages for Housework Campaign and the Crossroads Women's Center, and Rosa Wood, the executive vice-president of Philadelphia NOW. Each woman has made significant contributions to the women's movement in Philadelphia.
Francesca Alvarado has worked to bridge the gap between the Latina and feminist communities and organized labor. She was recently honored for her work educating the Latina community on abortion rights. She is also working to build feminist consciousness among young women and girls.
Phoebe Schellenberg organized the Women's Weekly Anti-War Speak Out and Picket along with Philadelphia NOW, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and others. Rosa Woods has made a major contribution toward building strong relationships between Philadelphia NOW and African American women's groups. She has also worked on numerous political campaigns, both nationally and locally.
The Philadelphia feminist community came out in force to honor these women, and to support the efforts of the local chapter, which has become increasingly diverse and involved in local issues and political campaigns.
DuPage County NOW
In Naperville, Ill., on June 29, DuPage County NOW activists demonstrated against the third annual anti-abortion "Face the Truth" tour on its last day in the Chicago area. Led by Joe Scheidler and Monica Miller, the tour is infamous for displaying giant posters of Jesus and what they claim are aborted fetuses, along with other propaganda. Illinois NOW Reproductive Rights Chair Bonnie Grabenhofer countered with the feminist view, handing out press releases.
Activist Marcia Colsmith has followed the group every year and has seen first hand the difference that even one pro-choice representative can make. Last year she protested them four days straight in 12 locations in 5 different Illinois counties!
Gay Bruhn, Illinois NOW president, stated "By putting women's lives in the forefront of the abortion decision, we intend to make the personal political and ensure that women's lives matter."
Ni-Ta-Nee NOW and Philadelphia NOW organized two actions in May against Bush's nomination of D.Brooks Smith to the federal bench. The first action took place outside the Spruce Creek Rod and Gun Club in Spruce Creek, Pa.—a club which refuses to grant women membership. Smith continued as a member of this club for 11 years after acknowledging that this violated the Federal Canons of Judicial Ethics.
The second action took place outside the Federal Building in Philadelphia where the Third Circuit Court of Appeals is located—the court where he now serves as a judge, since his nomination was confirmed by the Senate. NOW's Action Vice President, Olga Vives, joined local activists at this site.
At both actions, people went "fishing for justice" with fishing poles that had signs attached reading: This Club Discriminates Against Women, No Women No Judgeship, The Old Boys Club--Gender Bias, and Ethics Violations: Reprimand, Don't Promote. Ni-Ta-Nee and Philadelphia NOW explained to the public and the press that a judge who cannot adhere to the judicial code of conduct, or understand the implications of discrimination against women, is unfit to serve on the court of appeals.
Many thanks for information and photos provided by Hannah Olanoff of Capital City NOW, Beth Corbin for Florida NOW, Joanne Tosti-Vasey of Ni-Ta-Nee NOW and Marcia Colsmith of DuPage County NOW. Please send your actions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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