Nearly 300 prominent Iraqis selected by the US military met in Iraq on Monday. At the meeting, the delegates agreed to convene a national conference in the next month to create an interim government, according to the Boston Globe. However, only a few Iraqi women attended the meeting, raising concerns that women will not be adequately represented in the rebuilding process. Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), argued in the Globe that "the perspectives of women offer the best promise of meaningful reconstruction and the development of a working democracy," urging their inclusion in every step of the process of rebuilding their country. Retired US Army General Jay Garner, who is controlling the Pentagon's civil administration in Iraq, has stressed the importance of representation across religious and ethnic groups, but has so far not adequately included women, who make up 55 percent of Iraq's population.
Iraqi women leaders have expressed concern about the US's lack of inclusion of women in the planning for a new Iraq government. In a meeting held on the transition of the government two weeks ago, there were only four women included among the 80 delegates. A February meeting of Iraqi exiles convened in London by the US government included only three women of 65 participants.
Under the repressive regime of Saddam Hussein, women in Iraq still enjoyed more rights than women in many neighboring countries. Women have the right to drive, to attend coeducational college classes, to work outside the home in offices with men, and to inherit property, among other rights, according to the Los Angeles Times. Iraqi women are concerned that under a fundamentalist religious government, they may lose some of these rights. "We need a government that respects Iraqi and Muslim customs, not a strict Islamic rule that would curb women's rights," businesswoman Fadwa Shehab Ahmend told Voice of America. Dr. Shatha Beserani, an Iraqi exile who founded the Iraqi Women for Peace and Democracy Campaign in 2000, says that any new constitution for Iraq must be drafted by a team equally representing men and women, according to the Times of London.
Lesley Abdela, a senior partner in a gender parity and democracy consulting group, points out that the exclusion of women has been a theme in the rebuilding of nations. Writing in the Times of London, she asked, "why is it that in the aftermath of dictatorship and conflict everyone talks about human rights and democracy, yet women find themselves having to fight hard for any voice at all?" United Nations Resolution 1325, passed in 2000, states "clearly that women must be included in all aspects of peacemaking and peace-building discussions. It didn't happen in Afghanistan and so far it doesn't look like it is being implemented in Iraq. The question we should ask is 'Why'?" asked Dr. Krishna Ahooja-Patel, president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, according to the Times of London.
Media Resources: The Times of London 4/29/03; Boston Globe 4/28/03, 4/29/03; Voice of America 4/27/03; Los Angeles Times 4/28/03
8/31/2015 Chicago Activists Continue Hunger Strike to Save Predominately Black Public High School - Chicago residents have entered the second week of their hunger strike protesting the closure of Dyett High School, in the predominately African-American Bronzeville neighborhood located on the South Side of Chicago.
Parents and community members are calling on the Chicago Board of Education to keep Dyett - the only open-enrollment, neighborhood school in its area - open and accept a community plan to revitalize the school with a focus on science and green technology. . . .
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .