Hello. Welcome to another look at our world “as it is.” I’m Jim Tedder in Washington.
Today we have some exciting news from India, as that country’s space program turns its attention to the “red planet.” We will also hear about violence in Liberia against women and girls, and what is being done about it. But our first subject is money.
President Obama recently called for a rise in the federally required minimum wage in the United States. Currently, the lowest legal wage is seven dollars 25 cents an hour. The president wants it to rise to nine dollars an hour. His call gave new energy to labor activists, including those who say the pay raise would especially help women. American activists are pressing the government to raise the minimum wage.
“Raise the wage!”
President Obama supported this call in a recent television broadcast.
“A family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong.”
Joan Entmacher is with the National Women’s Law Center. She says American women hold more than half the nation’s minimum wage jobs, but they represent about half the American workforce.
“They’re the people who serve you food in restaurants or prepare it behind the scenes. They’re the people who clean your offices at night after you go home or clean your hotel rooms. Those are the really low paid jobs, and they are overwhelmingly filled by women.”
Joan Entmacher says women have the most to gain if the minimum wage is raised. She notes that two of three minimum-wage workers are women. But when women are earning more, she says, families do better. She believes whole economy is better because people have more money to spend, and that creates jobs for other people.
It can be hard to pay for everything you need in a tight economy. For example, a woman named Debra Z. Roth found low-wage work during the recession. She did this after she had a surgical operation and lost her well-paid job. She says the loss of money and the inability to feel secure made her feel like the ground was taken out from under her.
Now Ms. Roth holds a job in her field of expertise. She is communications chief with the group Wider Opportunities for Women. But she still remembers how it felt to hold a low-paying job. America’s lowest hourly pay rate has not risen since 2009.
The African nation of Liberia recently signed a measure calling for an end to violence against women and girls. Liberia joined about 20 countries that have promised to stop such attacks. Kelly Jean Kelly has details.
Lucy Morris is a 45-year old housewife from Monrovia. She says violence against women is a serious problem in Liberia.
“Many of us are beaten by our husbands. My husband beats me almost every time. He hurts me a lot. I have taken the complaints to the female (rights) lawyer and they have called him for an investigation. But this is still happening.”
Lucy Morris is not alone. The World Health Organization says 33 percent of married women in Liberia have reported domestic violence. And up to 77 percent of Liberian women say they have been a victim of sexual violence.
Smith Toby works for Liberia’s Ministry of Gender and Development. He says the country has laws against both domestic violence and rape, but many cases never go to court. He says a lot of women are too frightened to report sexual or domestic violence.
Last month, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf signed a U.N. agreement aimed at ending violence against women and girls. She became the 19th head of state to do so.
By signing the agreement, the Liberian government promised to approve and pass stronger laws against domestic violence. The government agreed to finance a National Action Plan on Sexual and Gender-based Violence. And it promised to help more women get justice in cases of such violence.
Salome Cankpane works for an aid organization called Women in Progressive Action. Her group helps victims of sexual violence seek legal guidance. She says the agreement is an important step for the government. But she says now is the time for Liberian women to speak out against domestic and sexual violence. I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.
India has announced plans to send a spacecraft to the planet Mars later this year. This is an important step in the country’s space program. As Jeri Watson tells us, the goal is to make India a leader in the space race.
The unmanned, Indian spacecraft is to be launched around November. That will be when the planet is closest to Earth. It will take nine months to reach Mars’ orbit. The Indian Space Research Organization says its Mars Orbiter will be equipped with a device that senses, or recognizes, the presence of methane. It also will look for signs of past life.
The Mars launching comes five years after India sent an unmanned spacecraft to Earth’s moon. That spacecraft found evidence of water on the moon for the very first time. India now is set to join only a handful of nations that have sent spacecraft to the red planet. They are the United States, Russia, China and Japan.
James Oberg is a space industry expert in Houston, Texas. He says India’s Mars flight could add to what scientists know about Mars. He says now is the time to set goals beyond those of the race to the moon.
“It is not just playing a game, or showing off at the Olympics or something. It is actually making contributions to the world. We have seen the technology that India has brought to their space program, very significant technology, and the goals of the program appear to me to be very realistic and very important for India as well as for the world. “
The Mars project marks a change in India’s space program. For more than 40 years, its space activities were meant to improve the life of average Indians. India worked toward this goal by sending communication and earth observation satellites into space. Those satellites brought television to hard-to-reach areas, searched for water and helped farmers reclaim wasteland. Indian satellite images also connected rural areas to hospitals in cities.
But India decided to aim higher and enter space exploration after its scientists developed rocket technology. Many people say this is part of the goal of making India one of the world’s leading nations. I’m Jeri Watson.
By the way, the U.S. space agency NASA just last week announced that Mars could have supported life long ago. Now the Indian space program may help us learn if life still exists on the “red” planet. Think about it, and send us an email. Is there life somewhere else in the universe, or are we alone?
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