News for 23 June 2012 has been taken from BBC News.
Cherie Blair has marked International Widows’ Day by driving a herd of goats across London Bridge.
The lawyer and wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair said goats could bring an income to widows in the developing world.
The stunt was the brainchild of Lord Loomba who, as a Freeman of the City of London, exercised his ancient right to herd livestock over the bridge.
The UN says half of the world’s 245 million widows face poverty.
Mrs Blair said: “I am the president of the the Loomba Foundation and for the last 15 years we have been campaigning for better rights for widows.
“Two years ago the UN recognised this day as International Widows’ Day and this is the second time we’ve celebrated it, and this year we wanted to highlight the fact that a goat can bring an income to a widow.
“Various people have kindly sponsored the goats, so that widows will be able to earn an income from them – not these particular goats obviously – but goats across the world,” she added.
After crossing the bridge with the goats, Mrs Blair and others involved in the event went to Downing Street where Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, hosted a reception.
Mrs Blair, who was joined by former singer and TV presenter Cilla Black, outlined what could happen to women in many parts of the developing world when their husbands died: “Widows across the world suffer stigma, they suffer poverty, they’re often driven into prostitution, they’re shunned by their families, and they’re dispossessed of their property at a time when they are at their most vulnerable because they’ve lost their husbands.”
Leana Hosea, a BBC World Service reporter, asked her: “The war on Iraq, which was co-led by your husband Tony Blair, created thousands upon thousands of widows. What would you say to Iraqi widows?”
She replied: “Widows have come from three things. Disease – HIV, Aids causes a lot of widows. Poverty, because there are a lot of men who are killed because they do dangerous jobs and of course the wars that sadly we have across the world.”
From literature and theater to music and art, women in Uganda are gaining social recognition. But playwright Adong Lucy Judith still had to take her play “Just Me, You and the Silence” outside the country to have it produced.
In the middle of a small street flanked by fragrant jacaranda trees blooming with purple flowers, a group of actors jostles for space with passersby and a succession of big, white government vehicles outside the Uganda Museum.
It could be just another street theater rehearsal in the capital. But it’s not. This one includes two women among the performers, a rarity in a society where women are often discouraged from seeking public attention.
When the Bayimba Cultural Foundation sent out calls for a street theater workshop, the two women–Moreen Duudu Hazel and Rehema Nanfuka–showed up. They didn’t know they had become pioneers in a challenging art form. It was just something they wanted to do.
Hazel and Nanfuka say sexual harassment is a problem when they perform on the streets of Kampala as well as in other towns.
“Guys were pulling my hand, saying, ‘I want this one, and I want that one,’” Hazel said, recalling a recent performance.
Both women said the other actors in their troop have helped contain the situations.
In 1990, Makerere University, the country’s leading academic institution, located in Kampala, introduced an affirmative action plan to increase women’s access to public universities.
Five years later, the country’s constitution was amended to say, “Women shall have the right to affirmative action for the purposes of redressing the imbalances created by history, tradition or custom.”
Twenty years later, female students had closed the gap with male counterparts in the humanities, especially in arts studies. At Makerere University’s January 2012 graduation, young women were 55 percent of those earning arts degrees.
But there’s still a gap outside school.
With the exception of church choirs, women in the arts are still pushing for wider recognition. Positive signs exist that they are making progress.
One big one breakthrough came recently when the country’s curriculum-setting agency added “A Season of Mirth” by Ugandan writer Regina Amollo to the list of books for studying literature in English. It’s still listed among the non-examinable texts, which are meant for leisure and not for obligatory study in school.
Even so, women see it as a breakthrough in the male domination of Ugandan literature.
Creative writing has also spurred political discussion of gender issues in Uganda. Most notable was “Beyond the Dance,” a 2009 anthology of short fiction and poetry about female genital mutilation.
Artist Sarah Tshila fuses spoken word poetry, African traditional music and hip-hop.
In 2007, the BBC World Service’s talent search program, “The Next Big Thing,” named her as one of the 20 best unsigned artists in the world. In August of the same year, she recorded her first album, “Sipping From The Nile.”
“This was great positive feedback,” she says. “It opened doors for me internationally.”
Tshila says that the low number of women in the performing arts is not always a deliberate exclusion.
“Sometimes it is about the way we’ve been raised and the lack of courage to pursue our dreams,” she says.
It is 50 years since the first breast enlargement using silicone implants. Today it rates as the second-most popular form of cosmetic surgery worldwide, undergone by 1.5 million women in 2010.
It was spring 1962 when Timmie Jean Lindsey, a mother-of-six lay down on the operating table at Jefferson Davis hospital in Houston, Texas.
Over the next two hours, she went from a B to a C cup, in an operation that made history.
“I thought they came out just perfect… They felt soft and just like real breasts,” says Lindsey now aged 80.
“I don’t think I got the full results of them until I went out in public and men on the street would whistle at me.”
Though the operation boosted her self-confidence – and she enjoyed the extra attention – she had never planned to have a breast augmentation.
Lindsey had been to hospital to get a tattoo removed from her breasts, and it was then that doctors asked if she would consider volunteering for this first-of-its-kind operation.
“I was more concerned about getting my ears pinned back… My ears stood out like Dumbo! And they said ‘Oh we’ll do that too.’” So a deal was struck.
The surgeons were two ambitious pioneers, Frank Gerow and Thomas Cronin.
It was Gerow who had first come up with the plan for a new kind of breast implant.
“Frank Gerow squeezed a plastic blood bag and remarked how much it felt like a woman’s breast,” says Teresa Riordan, author of Inventing Beauty: A History of the Innovations that have Made Us Beautiful.
“And he had this ‘Aha!’ moment, where he first conceived of the silicone breast implant.”
The first guinea pig for the silicone implant was a dog named Esmeralda. The basic principle behind the prototype was simple.
“A rocket achieves lift off with lift and thrust – same thing in breast augmentation,” says Thomas Biggs, who was working with Gerow and Cronin in 1962 as a junior resident in plastic surgery.
“I was in charge of the dog. The implant was inserted under the skin and left for a couple of weeks, until she chewed at her stitches and it had to be removed.”
The operation was deemed a success and Gerow declared that the implants were “as harmless as water”. Soon after, the medical team began looking for women to try out the implants.
Timmie Jean Lindsey has only a hazy recollection of her operation day.
“As I came back from surgery there was just a lot of weight on my chest – like something heavy had been sitting there.”
“That was about it – after maybe three or four days the pain part of it had let up.”
The doctors were pleased with their work. But, at the time, Biggs had no idea quite what they had on their hands.
“Sure it was a little bit exciting, but if I’d had a mirror to the future I’d have been dumbstruck,” he says.
“I was not wise enough to realise the magnitude of it.”
The significance began to hit home when Cronin presented the work at the International Society of Plastic Surgeons in Washington DC in 1963. “The plastic surgery world was absolutely set on fire with enthusiasm,” says Biggs.
The time seemed right. 1950s America had seen a whole swathe of cultural influences come together around the ideal of a larger breast.
It was the decade in which Playboy magazine and Barbie launched, and film stars played a big role too.
“The busty look of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell and also Dior’s New Look of 1957, really emphasised this curvy silhouette, and got women thinking about augmenting their breasts,” says Teresa Riordan.
“Falsies” – basically stuffed bras – were popular, but increasingly women wanted something more.
Through the years, all manner of approaches had been tried to increase breast size. In the 1950s, doctors started inserting sponge implants into women’s breasts. Some allege that Marilyn Monroe had this operation, though this is hotly contested.
Monroe biographer Anthony Summers says people he interviewed for his book, who knew her well – including Billy Travilla, who was both her dressmaker and one of her lovers – said she had no reason at all to have any breast enhancement.
“The filmmaker Billy Wilder described Monroe’s bosom as, ‘a miracle of shape, density and an apparent lack of gravity,’” he says.
The sponge technique worked well at first, but did not last – the sponges soon shrank, and became “hard as baseballs” says Biggs.
Silicone was also a material of the moment. “There was a post-war American fascination with all things plastic and artificial,” says Riordan.
It is not in the US, though, that the silicone was first used for breast enlargement, but in Japan, where it was tried out by prostitutes.
Eager to do better trade with the occupying US forces, who they presumed preferred a larger chest, they experimented by injecting silicone – stolen from the docks of Yokohama – direct into the breast.
These injections turned out to have a nasty side-effect known as “silicone rot”, in which gangrene set in around the injection site.
The early silicone breast implants pioneered in the US fortunately avoided this hitch, but were not entirely problem-free.
Hematoma, where blood collects in a swelling, was one early difficulty. There were cases of infections too, and also “fibrous capsular contractions” where a scar would form, making the implant hard.
“We are not worshipping what we had 50 years ago, because that’s history,” says Biggs.
There have been many advances over the decades, like 3D-imaging, and implants that are increasingly rupture-proof – and the range has widened.
“In the early days, we only had four choices or sizes – large, medium, small and petite. Now we have over 450 choices,” says Biggs.
Around the world, breast enlargement is now the second-most popular cosmetic surgery operation, after liposuction (the removal of fat). In many countries – including the UK – it is the most popular operation.
It’s not only used by women who want to perfect their body shape but also by patients who have undergone mastectomy as a result of breast cancer. This was something Gerow and Cronin envisaged from the start, and one of their motives for developing the operation.
For many years, Timmie Jean Lindsey kept fairly quiet about her breast enlargement – one boyfriend never knew for example, and it was only decades later that she told many of her friends and family about it.
Fifty years on she remains delighted with the results, though there is no stopping the passing of time, she says.
“You would think they would stay real perky, but no – they are just like a regular breasts, they begin to sag over the years. That surprised me. I figured they’d just stay where they were.”
But she still very happy with the little piece of history she carries inside her body.
“It’s kind of awesome to know that I was first,” she says.
Blog extra: Podcast (below) of Witness interview with Timmie Jean Lindsey (part of BBC World Service).