Debate on Syrian and American working women at American cultural center
Syria-USA, Politics, 3/15/2000
The American center in Damascus recently hosted a meeting in which two presentations were debated under the title, "The role played by the American woman and the Syrian woman." The American side was represented by Heba al-Chazli who is the regional representative in the Middle East and North Africa for the American center in solidarity with international workers' solidarity. It is a branch of the American workers union.
Mrs. al-Chazli develops and carries out educational and training and financial aid programs for the workers union in the Middle East region. In her presentation which came on the sideline of the celebrations held on the International Women's Day (March 8), Mrs. Chazli said that on March 8, 1857 the first women's demonstration was carried out by women employed in the areas of textiles and tailoring in New York, in protest of the bad work conditions. On one occasion in 1911 in the city of New York 100 American women died in a fire at a clothing factory.
Mrs. Chazli cited her own experience as a working woman and a mother of four children.
Mrs. Al-Chazli is an American of Egyptian descent. She emigrated to the US 22 years ago and had her higher education in Britain and the US.
Thanks to her work with workers union and non-governmental organizations, she has visited several places in the US, North Africa and the Middle East.
Talking about the experience of the American woman, al-Chazli said women in the States have become on equal footing with men in many domains, especially in her right to work and acquire the same wages.
She explained that in the world women occupy 14% of administrative posts and less than 6% of leadership posts, a matter which explains the phenomenon of poverty among women in various parts of the world.
She continued that the most persistent issue for women in the US is how to make the balance between her family and her work and a job opportunity.
She continued that the number of working women in the US has been increasing. She continued that in 1900 the number of working women was 5 million, representing 18% of the labor force. This number increased to 18 million working women in 1950 (following World War II), representing an increase of 26% and has become 63 million working women in 1997, representing 46% of the country's labor force.
She signaled that between the 1940 - 1950 the man's income was enough for the family, but since the 1960s and until the present time both men and women have to work to support the family, adding that there are one-parent families which are solely supported by women. According to statistics made in 1997 some 12 million families where women are the only bread-winners for their families, representing 18% of the total number of the US families.
Mrs. al-Chazli regretted that women and men do not have the same wages for the same work. She stated that women earn 74 cents for each one dollar won by men. Ten years ago it was 55 cents for women against each dollar paid to men for the same job. Such an imbalance in payment often takes place in traditional works like teaching, nursing and at child care. Concerning health care insurance, al-Chazli commented that this problem is persisting in the US, noting that there is a special health insurance system which covers only 41 million of the American population of 270 million and that people under 65 do not have enough health protection.
Al-Chazli said in the state run-sector both men and women have the same wages, adding that the problem lies in the private sector. She said that the American women are enrolled in universities in great numbers and that by the year 2003 it is expected to have 5 million American women at universities against 4 million men.
On American women's involvement in various posts, al-Chazli said American women serve as the secretary of state, a spokeswoman for the White House, an engineer, a doctor, a scientist a businesswoman and a house-holder and that in all their activities American women are professional, especially in the business sector where she occupies an effective part of the US economy.
The Syrian representative in the debate was presented by Umayya Ostwani, who is the chief editor of the Arab women magazine in Syria.
She highlighted the role played by the Syrian woman as a partner to the men in building the society and noted the care scored to her in compliance with the Syrian constitution and that the question of liberating women in Syria has been given top priority by the political leadership.
The Syrian speaker indicated the key role played by the women in Syrian in having their due role in the economic, political, social, cultural and educational areas. The women in Syria are also given the right to assume higher posts, to vote and to be a candidate in the elections, the right to education and learning and equal wage with man for the same job and full free-of-charge health care.
She added that the women in Syria enjoy their full rights. They have been Cabinet ministers since 1976 when Dr. Najah al-Attar was the first female Syrian minister of culture, and then there was the post of the Ministry of Higher Education, which was also held by a woman. In the last seven People's Assembly (PA) legislative courses the number of women was 26, representing 10.4% of the total number of the PA.
She continued that Syrian women were also deputy ministers and ambassadors since 1988 and recruited for the diplomatic corp at 11% and in the judicial authority at 11%. She continued that the Syrian women are also lawyers, journalists, attorney generals, teachers, university professors and presidents, doctors, dentists, and engineers, as well as members of the police force.
The women in Syria also have made their presence felt in the leading posts of the people's organizations and vocational trade unions, foremost being the General Federation of Women.
Such a gathering imposes the question that women are still active in their quest of striving for a better future and that can be attained in being integrated with men and being on equal footing with them on all walks of life.
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