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Boxer, Reid Demand Women Be Involved in Iraq Reconstruction

Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Harry Reid (D-NV) have called upon the Bush administration to include women in leadership roles in the reconstruction of Iraq.

In a speech on the Senate floor yesterday Reid called on the Bush administration to ensure that women are full participants in the new Iraqi government and to improve and expand our security mission in Afghanistan so that women there also are full participants. Women in Afghanistan continue to suffer from violence and Taliban-era extremism in the absence of US action on expansion of the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF), increased reconstruction funding, and for more resources to support the work of the Ministry of Women's Affairs and the Independent Human Rights Commission.

“We cannot allow a lack of security to destroy women’s rights in Iraq as they have done and continue to do in Afghanistan,” Reid said. “We have won the war in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but we are in jeopardy of losing the peace. Women in Afghanistan and Iraq – indeed the citizens of these nations – and the world community will not be able to sustain this loss.”

At a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Boxer today introduced an amendment to the 2004 Foreign Assistance Authorization Act stating that women in Iraq must be included in all levels of government, the planning and distribution of assistance, and job promotion and training programs. The Boxer amendment was adopted unanimously.

Women in Iraq have thus far not only been excluded from the reconstruction process – out of 250 delegates to a constitutional committee only six are women - but looting, violence and threats of extremism have kept them in their homes. “Already there have been calls by some religious leaders for bans on women wearing makeup and for taking up the head-to-toe covering of the burqua. Afghanistan under the Taliban is a short memory away,” wrote Laura Liswood in the Christian Science Monitor. Some are looking to the Kurdish model in the north where women have pushed through legislation granting them unprecedented rights and protecting them from honor killings. Others are joining demands that the US must do a better job of reaching out to women.

“If we want to have a sustainable peace, women should be allowed to participate fully in the planning stage and not afterwards as cosmetic extras. This is what happened in Afghanistan,” Elisabeth Rehn, author of a report for the United Nations called Women, War and Peace told BBC News.

Media Resources: Senator Reid Statement 5/20/03; Christian Science Monitor 5/15/03; BBC News 5/21/03; Associated Press 5/21/03

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