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Top US Women Diplomats Speak Out on Sexual Harassment

Women from all sectors are coming out to speak against sexual harassment cases, this time U.S women diplomats lashed out against such incidents

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FILE - Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, who served as the US Ambassador in Malta, addresses participants during a gay pride parade organized by the Malta Gay Rights Movement in Sliema, outside Valletta, June 30, 2012.

As U.S. lawmakers grapple with allegations of sexual harassment in their ranks, some senior American diplomats are speaking out about their struggles over the years.

Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, who was U.S. ambassador to Malta from 2012-2016, told her story about serving at the State Department and the White House.

“There was one occasion in the department when a boss touched me and I told him if he did it again, I’d knock the s— out of him. He did not repeat it, but he did try to get me to curtail from the position,” Abercrombie-Winstanley told the Foreign Service Journal, a publication by the American Foreign Service Association.

The former U.S. envoy recalled another incident in which she said she was harassed by a senior lawmaker while serving on the White House National Security Council.

“Initially, I parried the advance from a senior member of Congress, but when he continued to call me, I reported to the NSC’s executive secretary that it was happening, and told him that if I had to do violence to repel it, I would,” Abercombie-Winstanley said.

“I was letting him know beforehand, I said, because I did not expect to lose my job as a result,” she added. “After a moment of shocked silence, he said ‘Thanks for letting me know.’ And the member stopped calling me.”

She later told VOA these occasions are an “extremely small part of my professional journey” and declined to either comment further on details or identify the congressman.

‘Zero-tolerance’ policy

In a letter electronically distributed to all American diplomats around the world earlier this year, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the department upholds a “zero-tolerance” policy regarding discriminatory and sexual harassment.

“Effective harassment prevention efforts must start with and involve the highest level possible,” Tillerson said in his policy statement.

For years, secretaries of state release their statements on diversity and harassment in the workplace at the beginning of their tenure and review annually thereafter. They usually highlight two anti-harassment policies: one prohibiting sexual harassment, the other banning discrimination.

U.S. Ambassador Laura Dogu. (U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua website)

Male-dominated circles

Still, female ambassadors said they must learn to adjust and handle the challenges involved in working in mainly male-dominated diplomatic circles.

“I am frequently the only woman in meetings outside the office with the host country, and when I have control over the guest list, I insist that we include at least 30 percent women, if not more,” U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Laura Dogu said in the Foreign Service Journal article.

Like Ambassador Dogu, former Ambassador to Mongolia Jennifer Zimdahl Galt said she has been the only woman or one of the only women in the room at virtually every meeting throughout her career. The key to working in such an environment, she said, is to be well-prepared and a good listener.

FILE – U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia Jennifer Zimdahl Galt and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry past a traditional honor guard upon arrival at Chinggis Khaan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, June 5, 2016.

“So you can speak authoritatively and there is no question that you are on top of your brief. It’s also important to dress professionally, which in my book means wearing a suit at all times,” said Galt, who was appointed as principle deputy assistant secretary for educational and cultural affairs earlier this month.

She also said, “Being sure to listen carefully to what others have to say so that you’re not repeating, but rather amplifying and adding value with your remarks.”

Building minority leadership

In a speech to student programs and fellowship participants in August, Tillerson said he had directed relevant committees to develop “minority leadership” at the State Department.

“Every time we have an opening for an ambassador position, at least one of the candidates must be a minority candidate. Now they may not be ready, but we will know where the talent pool is,” Tillerson said.

Seen as part of these efforts, Irwin Steven Goldstein will begin his new position next week (December 4) as the first openly gay undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

In Senate testimony, Goldstein thanked his spouse for supporting his career of developing and executing communications strategies that connect diverse audiences. (VOA)

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Vidya Talks about her upcoming Movie Tumhari Sulu and Shares her views on Sexual Harassment

Vidya Balan opens up about her views on Sexual Harassment.

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Vidya Balan
Vidya Balan. ians
  • We should name and shame those who sexually harass others, actress Vidya Balan said on Friday.

After Big B, actress Vidya Balan speaks against women harassment 

“I think people who have suffered this only know what exactly does it feel like when you’re really in an uncomfortable situation. When someone just rubs or touches you with his hand, sometimes I get really angry. So I think in that sense, there are a lot of degrees in sexual harassment.

“I am very glad that people are talking about it now. Women are talking about it and they should talk about it because it is not their fault. We should name and shame those who are sexually harassing others, undoubtedly,” she told media persons here during a promotional programme for her upcoming “Tumhari Sulu”.

After the Harvey Weinstein controversy led to the disclosure of sexual harassment cases in Hollywood, prominent actors such as Irrfan Khan and Richa Chadha have opened up about the casting couch in the Hindi film industry.

Vidya, along with entire “Tumhari Sulu” team including Neha Dhupia and RJ Malishka, was attending the launch of PVR Big Screen PXL here.

The upcoming slice of life drama recently released a rehashed version of “Mr.India” song “Hawa Hawai”, which originally featured Sridevi.

Vidya said that Sridevi liked the song. “After watching the song, Sridevi told me, she found me very cute in the song and she found the song lovely, especially the way we did it… (was) very happy with it. I don’t want to say much, but it would be better if you ask her because I can only tell you this much.”

She also said that the response to the movie has been great but she finds it difficult to talk about compliments which she got from the fraternity.

“I always had a problem with this thing.. I am little hesitant to express someone’s words. Someone sent me a message or told me personally… hopefully quite a few people will turn up at the screening, it would be better if you asked them but so far the response has been good,” she said.

The “Tumhari Sulu” teaser and the trailer has set the tone right for the film and with back to back song releases, the movie is getting much talked about.

“‘Hawa Hawai’ has got a fantastic response and so has the ‘Ban Ja Tu Meri Rani’ song. And today we have released one more song, ‘Manva Likes To Fly’. I love that song because all of us want to fly on wings of our hearts. So far the response has been fabulous.

“There is a lot of excitement for the film because we got a fabulous response for the teaser and then we got an even better response for the trailer. And now you watch the film which is even better. We’re excited and promoting the film like anything and still, we are not tired at all.”

Vidya also said that she relates a lot to her “Tumhari Sulu” character, since, as an actress, she can’t participate in radio contests.

“I can’t call to participate in radio contests because people know me and they would never give me a gift. Sometimes I do feel like calling as I’d have really interesting and mad answers, so yeah, at times I do feel like calling and participating in the contests.”

About the event, Vidya Balan said: “I am a PVR Loyalist; I watch most of my films at PVR. There sound and picture quality is fabulous, it is even better now than what it is normally. I am sure it will be an extremely pleasurable experience for anyone watching films here.”

“Tumhari Sulu” starring Vidya Balan is directed by Suresh Triveni and produced under the banners of T-Series and Ellipsis Entertainment releases worldwide on November 17.(IANS)

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Women Rally Across France to Protest Sexual Harassment, Assault

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Women hold placards reading
Women hold placards reading "Sexism is not my gender,“ left, and “125 women killed in 2016" during a rally protesting sexual abuse and harassment, in Marseille, southern France. VOA

Paris, October 30: Hundreds of women took to the streets of Paris and 10 other French cities to protest against sexual harassment in the wake of the scandal surrounding Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

In Paris, women gathered in Republic Square, waving signs bearing the #metoo hashtag used by tens of thousands of women to share personal stories of sexual harassment and assault.

Similar gatherings were also held in Marseille, Bordeaux, and Lille, among other cities.

As the #metoo campaign erupted across the United States, a similar campaign unfolded across France under the hashtag #balancetonporc or #squealonyourpig. As in America, French women have begun naming and shaming their attackers.

Since it started, several prominent figures have been targeted in French assault claims, including a lawmaker in President Emmanuel Macron’s party, a judge on France’s equivalent of a reality show “America’s Got Talent” and Oxford professor Tariq Ramadan, a leading lecturer in Islamic studies.

French-Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski, who is wanted in the U.S. for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in the 1970s, has also been hit with new abuse claims.

The avalanche of accusations was unleashed weeks ago when The New York Times and The New Yorker published reports of women accusing Weinstein of rape and sexual harassment going back decades. Among the accusers were some of Hollywood’s most prominent actresses, including Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Rosanna Arquette.(VOA)

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Greater Scrutiny Set for Nonimmigrant Work Visa Renewals

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H1B Visa, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
A security guard looks out of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in New York. VOA

United States, October 27: The United States has announced changes to its nonimmigrant work visa policies that are expected to make renewals more difficult.

In the past, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would generally approve the renewals unless the visa holder had committed a crime. Now, renewals will face the same scrutiny as the original applications.

“USCIS officers are at the front lines of the administration’s efforts to enhance the integrity of the immigration system,” USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna said, according to the announcement posted on USCIS’ website this week. “This updated guidance provides clear direction to help advance policies that protect the interests of U.S. workers.”

The new regulations could affect more than 100,000 people holding at least eight different types of work visas who fill out the I-129 form for renewals.

Sam Adair, a partner at the Graham Adair business immigration law firm in California and Texas, said that for the most part, he expected visa holders would most likely face lengthier adjudication periods in their renewal processes, as opposed to increased numbers of denials.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a big shift for us,” Adair told VOA. “But I think what we’ll see is just an increase in the number of requests for evidence, an increase in the delays on the adjudication of these petitions, and really it’s going to just result in more costs for the employers who are filing these petitions.”

‘High-skilled’ workers

Of all visa holders affected by this policy, those in the United States on an H-1B, a visa for “high-skilled” workers, are the biggest group. Of 109,537 people who had to submit I-129 forms in fiscal 2017, 95,485 were H-1B holders, according to data sent to VOA by USCIS.

H-1B visas have been threatened in the past, most recently by a bill proposed this year that would have raised the minimum salary requirement for workers brought in on the visa. While advocates of the program argued that it would keep workers from being exploited, many H-1B holders feared that businesses would be less willing to hire them or keep them on board.

But some Americans support the new regulations, saying that nonimmigrant work visas hurt American workers.

“It’s prudent to make sure that the people that receive those visas are in complete compliance with all of the requirements,” Joe Guzzardi, national media director of Californians for Population Stabilization, told VOA.

“It just isn’t possible to think that there aren’t American workers that couldn’t fill these jobs,” he said, noting that while the regulations might hurt businesses, they would help Americans looking for work.(VOA)