How Best Can Women's Rights Be Expanded Internationally?

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
March 7, 2009
Indian Women Sort Red Chilies Ahead of International Women's Day

The world recognizes March 8 as International Women's Day. During her recent travel to the Middle East, Secretary Clinton met with women who are developing their own businesses through a microcredit program. Promoting women's economic and political participation is an important element of U.S. foreign policy and a key component of democratic development.

How best can women's rights be expanded internationally?

Comments

Comments

Christine L.
|
California, USA
March 7, 2009

Christine in California writes:

Educated women are empowered women. Empowered women empower others women in return.

Elizabeth
|
Israel
March 7, 2009

Elizabeth in Israel writes:

The best way to expand women's right is to promote democracy. The gender inequality in the Middle Eastern countries stems from the state's control over areas of personal life. The regimes use Sharia law to maintain their credibility as representing the traditional values of the people (instead of "foreign" values such as human rights). When democratic, popularly supported governments will be established in the Middle Eastern countries, women will be able start enjoying the rights to drive cars, divorce, walk outside without having to cover yourself, express yourself freely in public, watch soccer games and get elected to public office.

Rosemary
|
New Jersey, USA
March 7, 2009

Rosemary in New Jersey writes:

We need to start in our own backyard. We cannot be a leader on the global front when we are so far behind in this country.

I am joyful to see our new Secretary of State putting forth such positive initiatives on the world stage. Her style and charm will certainly warm up our relations with some countries and entities that have been feeling a cold American shoulder in past years. But I cannot watch her working so hard without remembering how last year at this time she was subjected to terrible treatment by the media and by her own party.

After she suspended her campaign and the nomination process was over, the vitriol shifted to the Vice Presidential nominee of the Republican Party.

I have never seen male candidates treated the way these two exceptional women were. This treatment of women candidates is unacceptable and must stop.

The New Agenda: http://thenewagenda.net/goals/ has set 10 goals for action in the U.S. We need to address these issues within our own country before we can expect the world to take us seriously on women's rights.

This is Goal #3:
"Increasing the Number of Women in Elected National Office
At present, women make up only 16% of the House of Representatives and 16% of the Senate. The United States is ranked 69th out of 195 nations in number of women in national office. In fact, the United States is standing behind Rwanda, Cuba and Argentina. This is a national embarrassment to all and must be remedied."

A good start might be passing, finally, the Equal Rights Amendment. We need only three more states to ratify.

I know that none of this is really the purview of the Department of State, but if we are to be a credible leader in the world on women's rights, we must first adjust the way 52% of our own population is treated and represented.

mariacristina
|
Virginia, USA
March 7, 2009

Mariacristina in Virginia writes:

As a foreign born citizen, I have been able to see boths sides of the issue, the women's rights struggle of the women in our great U.S.A. vs. the strugles of the inernational woman, I was born in the Republic of Panama;neither is easy to understand. While the American woman now has more opportunities to work and have a business and be respected, it is still difficult for the foreign born woman to be able to be taken serious. I would like to see more companies or government agencies be able to provide a venue through which the foreign born woman is afforded the opportunity to grow and develop. Diversity in the workplace is nothing to fear it is something that needs to be embraced. As for the International woman, I'm very much interested in a program that would offer the women in the community where I was born, the city of David, Republic of Panama, the opportunity to further their education paid for by their employer. You may say we do this here now, yes, but we are talking about the U.S.extending a hand of opportunity to the business community in that city to look into this type of program. It is proven that help that is offered to women is seldom a bad decision. When the woman has been given an opportunity to grow it benefits the family, the children and overall the entire community.

Melissa
|
Pennsylvania, USA
March 7, 2009

Melissa in Pennsylvania writes:

Ask women in each country what THEY want/need; what is important to them. Our western ideas are not one size fits all. The last thing these women need is the west telling them what is best for them. They know. Listen to them. Trust them.

Marcia
|
Illinois, USA
March 7, 2009

Marcia in Illinois writes:

I think women developing their own business is very important, especially in developing countries. It can give them economic security and economic independence. As an entrepreneur in the food industry, I have seen many women take a food product idea, commercialize it and grow it into a financially viable business. I think it would be wonderful if every women learned the key fundamentals of starting their own business. We could certainly use more women at the top of the food chain instead of being the ones doing the shopping, preparing, serving and cleaning up.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
March 7, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Rosemary in New Jersey -- Rosemary,

Since no one is preventing women from running for office, and a woman's electability is determined by the confidence she illicits from the public the same way men are elected, I don't see that the U.S. government could do anything within constitutonal boundaries to change the stats.

It's not like folks can set gender quotas for Congress.

And unless more women are willing to take the stage, take the heat of the spotlight, and make a contribution, I really don't have a solution to offer you. The ten points aside, if U.S. women aren't stepping up to the plate, it'll be hard for them to break glass ceilings.

But I don't think it reflects on the U.S. gov. the way you suggest, for State's efforts at international woman's issues (rights, health, employment, microlending...) are completely credible in the eyes of those these programs target for assistance around the world.

I would have to say in closing that no one in my living memory (man or woman) has been more politically villified, "misunderstimated", lampooned, cursed for being alive let alone President, bashed by the press, bashed by the public, and had his character assasinated on a routine daily basis more than George W Bush.

Now I do appreciate what you said about the women candidates in this last election, and I found it to be typical gutter politics as usual, sad but true.

I just think you were forgetting someone when you made that statement.

Judith R.
|
New York, USA
March 8, 2009

Judith in New York writes:

For starters we needed to deal with religious and cultural oppression of women. We are afraid of offending the religious men.

Next, microbusinesses are a real possibiltiy of economic independence for women. Therefore microloans and grants are critical. \

Third, girls absolutely must be permitted to attend school

Melissa
|
Pennsylvania, USA
March 8, 2009

Melissa in Pennsylvania writes:

@ Eric in New Mexico -- "It's not like folks can set gender quotas for Congress."

Why not? They do it in Scandinavia.

Alegre
|
Maryland, USA
March 8, 2009

Alegre in Maryland writes:

It starts with educating girls. When girls are educated they stand a better chance of controling their reproductivity. If they can do that, they can build and run a business or make their voices heard in the governing of their communities or their nation.

Ali
|
Texas, USA
March 8, 2009

Ali in Texas writes:

I think the best we in the U.S. can do is practice what we preach. We talk equality but we are not represented in elected positions consistent with our percentage of the populations. We should see the Nanny Tax for what it is - the modern day woman's poll tax. It's keeping good women out of politics and no elected woman today should feel smart about having paid hers. When women make 77 cents on the dollar to be in the workforce, they have already paid their tax to this country. Going after a woman running for public office because she had the sense to work and get child care should be treated as shameful. More women should treat not paying taxes on child care as an act of civil disobedience and I hope Hillary Clinton understands what is wrong with taxes being levied on child care once a Nanny is paid a mere $1400 in a calendar year. That's working for less than $5 per day. The government has a long history of tax breaks and subsidies for such thing as raising tabacco and timber; it's about time it did as much for raising our children. Developing businesses is key - but woman's political participation is even more important. We need to fire up getting 51 women in the U.S. senate for starters. We shouldn't be fooled into electing only women with one ideology. Given that all four republican women senators voted for the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, we can once again feel the cohesion of that group called women, despite party affiliation.

AG
|
Georgia, USA
March 8, 2009

AG in Georgia writes:

Oh, that's a beautiful picture!

I think the first thing is to make sure that when there are questions of womens' rights and intersectionality of religion/culture/race etc., there is a consistent approach to every issue. So whether the discussion is about FGM in Palestine or about honor killings in Pakistan, or about FGM/honor killings in the USA by American citizens, the administration is speaking in ONE voice and following the same policies, reacting the same way globally. This is where the US has badly tripped up in the last eight years and this is where Hillary and the State Dept can really add value, by showing that you care truly about women, and that you respect all cultures, races, religions and contexts.

Second, all those individual freedoms and cultural practices are NO EXCUSE for trampling on any human being's fundamental rights. No culture is sacrosanct or has rights over an individual's life, liberty and freedoms of speech. No religion has automatic control over people. And this is something that needs to be practiced and spoken at home and abroad.

Either way, we have full faith in our new Madame Secretary and wish her and the Department all the very best.

And this is going to sound funny, but: Thank you for supporting women's rights!

Rosemary
|
New Jersey, USA
March 8, 2009

Rosemary in New Jersey writes:

@ Eric in New Mexico -- Eric,

Fair enough - I did forget about George Bush - but the bashing was very different from what happened to the women.

I didn't mean to imply that the government could or should set quotas, but the last election cycle did illustrate that the playing field is not level, and women candidates are held to different standards than men are.

Forgive me if I am still a little raw from all of that. But having watched it, I don't wonder that women are not stepping up to the plate. Who would want to subject herself to what Hillary and Sarah went through?

Anyhow, sorry I forgot about George W. I do have a soft spot for him ;)

Lara
|
India
March 8, 2009

Lara in India writes:

I agree with other posts, from my field work, the number one factor that I see changing women's lives is education. The more education a woman has the more knowledgeable she becomes about her options. In my work, I notice education is the catalyst for women's progress.

Chevalier
|
Georgia
March 8, 2009

Chevalier in Georgia writes:

@ Eric in New Mexico -- first - I don't know which planet you've been living on for the last few years, but women and men do NOT get the same kind of treatment - at home, at work, in showbiz, in industry, while availing healthcare - and definitely not in politics. The reason this country does not have a woman president is not because women don't "step up". Shame on you for such unqualified, non-fact-based stereotypes. The reason women aren't in higher office in this country, but are widely present everywhere in every other country is because of bigotry, double standards directed at them as we saw last year with Sen Clinton's candidacy, and later, Gov. Palin's nomination.

Second, I think you meant 'elicit' not 'illicit'.

Third, when you say "I don't think it reflects on the U.S. gov. the way you suggest" you are wrong. A government that does not represent 52% of the population it is governing is clearly a poor excuse of a representative system, and a sham.

Fourth - "I don't see that the U.S. government could do anything within constitutional boundaries to change the stats." - not true.

The ten points specifically point to several action items by individuals, by organizations, by communities and by the government. For example, the U.S. govt could set up a Presidential Commission for Women. The state govts could help ratify the ERA and ensure equal rights for women. The US Senate and House could help pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. The current President could make sure his cabinet has more than the paltry 16% women that it currently does. The U.S. govt could start programs that support and encourage women in politics, and make the playing field a little more level for everyone.

And none of this is new or radical. Governments around the world have done precisely this and have seen excellent results - an increase in overall governance standards, more inclusive governmental policies, focused on development (precisely what is needed in these times), and higher living standards - education, healthcare, etc. for their citizenry. It's not much of a reach for a self-proclaimed 'sole superpower' to do so as well.

Stacy
|
Massachusetts, USA
March 8, 2009

Stacy in Massachusetts writes:

The U.S. should continue to promote women's rights worldwide and human rights in general because women's rights *are* human rights. We can't let the current economic crisis distract us from our responsibilities on this front and nobody is better positioned than Secretary Clinton to advance women's rights on the international stage.

PJ
|
United States
March 8, 2009

PJ in U.S.A. writes:

Over the past ~18 months, one thing has been made downright clear, and it shames me to say this, - we need women to help women. Not because men are not capable, but because we collectively do not have enough will, desire or downright outrage at doing something about what is fundamentally wrong. A prime example is how this nation stood up with the sexist vilification of two prime women candidates through every possible form of media outlet - individual and mass. Another is the violence against women in Bangalore, India becuase they choose to wear clothers and/or behave in a manner deemed by some select men to be "inappropriate".

To me this means, and just as the first step, we need more women and the right women in positions of power where they can influence and enable women across the world to help themselves.

If there is one thing that each of you can do, then it should be to look carefully at the next woman candidate you see running for a electable position in your neighbourhood, town, city, state, country or another other position. Not because she is a woman, but because of what she brings to the table. Because of her own merit and her capabilities, and not just because of her "sex". And for those who hide behind the mask of "there arent any / enough qualified women for me to elect", start with educating the girl child - in your home or anywhere that you might have influence. And teach them to stand up for what is truly their right.

Ellen
|
Georgia, USA
March 8, 2009

Ellen in Georgia writes:

Senator Clinton, The best way to expand women's rights internationally is to educate women about current rights they do have and how to enforce these rights. Girls as well as boys must be educated in every country. We also need to educate women in schools and to help them start their own businesses.

Jeff
|
California, USA
March 8, 2009

Jeff in California writes:

Women are precious and undeserved in this world. I believe strongly that as we (U.S. and countries who do not hate us) band together to raise healthcare standards for women and their children, women's rights follow closely.

I watched that happen from afar as my (female) cousin, who is a gifted surgeon, was invited to Saudi Arabia to consult on women's health -- especially their breast cancer crisis. Very positive women's rights matters happened there in the "slip stream" opportunity created by focusing on expanding healthcare to the under-served in our world. Contact me if you would like a few more details.

BilQis A.
|
New York, USA
March 8, 2009

Bilqis in New York writes:

Before expanding women's rights, in many parts of the world they need to be recognized as valid and beneficial to all of society. Through the creative use of games, history books, technology, conversation, public announcements, among other methods, show the inextricable nature of the relationship between the (lack of) contributions of women and the social, economic, and political (in)stability of a nation. A connection must be made between women as active, publicly respected and recognized agents of change and the nation's ability to realize its goals. This must be incorporated into a culture on a daily basis and utilized with consistency, especially with youth. Focus on children's games, incorporate the theme into soap operas (if that is a popular cultural escape). This effort should not be made from atop of a soap box, but introduced to a society in an indirect way so that it bypasses egos and penetrates the subconscious. Repeated with consistency, people will come to the conclusion on their own that the economic and political participation of women is an important agenda, and that social regard for the quality of ideas and products produced by women affect the national GDP and reputation of the nation, in general. Most important of all, these efforts towards expanding women's rights MUST be put into action with and through local leaders so that this information comes from within. No outside country should go to another and tell them what to do, guide them to come up with what is wanted. This will avoid falling into the "colonizer vs. colonized" scenario, which is an effective manner of rousing an emotional response from natives and discrediting outside nations, no matter how great their idea. Working with local leaders empowers citizens and influences them TO WANT to work towards realizing a particular effort even if it was originally born in the mind of an outside nation.

Marianne D.
|
Florida, USA
March 9, 2009

Marianne in Florida writes:

Thank you Madaam Secretary,

I think that the answer to International Women's rights is many-fold, and might lie in several fronts.

For one, what about using trade as leverage with countries to offer an incentives for them to offer women more rights, such as education... thus extending our hand to those who unclench their fist. Perhaps this could include a foreign exchange program in education, allowing different cultures to develop empathy for eachother. Perhaps our volunteer organizations, such as Peace Corp can be part of this... again, using leverage of what countries want.

In the end as I refer to Thomas P.M. Barnett in his thoughts, we want other countries to trust that the more trade they do with the United States, the safer the world will be. When all the sides of the trade agreements can believe this, it can be so! We are the leaders of this world. The world looks to us to set the standard and we have so many lessons that we can share. We have a new leader leading a new changing world, and he's got the helm like no captain I've ever seen before. No offense to your husband.

Incentives do not have to be in the form of money. Let's trade in our skills, safety, security and services. We have a country with a mass consumer appetite. Let's stop trying to bribe countries and criminals into behaving, and start waving that carrot of trade!

Thank you.

Wendy
|
California, USA
March 9, 2009

Wendy in California writes:

So many cogent remarks. Let me first quickly remind folks that in our very own U.S.A., there are NO absentee ballots or vote-by-mail in the Caucus States in the primary season. In the thousands of phone calls I made into Caucus States, I heard, "Oh no, honey, I can't caucus, I'm off balance." These folks can't use a ride. They need a Vote-By-Mail ballot.

Even in the general, the so-called absentee ballot availability is pretty much of a sham. In Philly, for instance, you practically have to be IN an ambulance to be allowed an Absentee Ballot. This is wrong. Oregon votes 100% by mail. In California, we have permanent vote-by-mail (a paper trail!!) which you keep once you sign up unless you miss two major elections.

This lack of or odious difficulty of vote-by-mail particularly disenfranchises older women and women with children.

I think the idea of bypassing the ego, particularly the testostero-adrenal supercharged religious/political ego has wisdoms, but all facets of smart power ought be deployed methinks. When young women see SecState Hillary talk about women's rights, it give their imaginations a quantum jolt. Seeing her sure makes me wish I were young enough to begin on the diplomat's path myself.

When women have jobs, they also usually have most of the household jobs to do too. It would help if women brought up boys to be useful.

I have a friend who was in Hazmat (handling hazardous materials.) He became the woman he felt he truly was and as a "she," s/he was dumbfounded, disgusted, and enraged by the treatment of women.

Education, more & more & more laptops, and an insistence on legal respect and recourse are certainly essential steps -- here and planetwide. State (Hurray state dot gov Team!) could probably set up a virtual International Women's Day not once a year but once a month with the Traveling Virtual Conferencing Team.

Set up Sister (Middle) Schools between, first, one school in each USA state and then two in each state etc. Make them part of each other's curriculum with projects and communications and virtual conferences where ever possible. Have each class penpal their sister class. Send art back & forth to each other.

Patsy
|
United States
March 9, 2009

Patsy in U.S. writes:

Outreach, talk, action, and always respect, patience, compassion. Women need to know how other women live and study other cultures. I believe that concentrating on goals and what we'd like to see in common, ie better futures for our families, would bring good results. Education is important, but it must be the right kind of education. So much of establishment education is destructive, not instructive. Economic security/independence is very important, as well. I guess I'm saying that understanding and sensitivity is key to reaching out to women around the world. We must unite and find common ground in order to make important changes.

Rosemary
|
New Jersey, USA
March 9, 2009

Rosemary in New Jersey writes:

@ Chevalier in Georgia -- Thanks for answering Eric in NM. I did not want to be too picky and abrasive (and be moderated out), but the illicit/elicit usage did bother me. Thanks for mentioning it.

@ Eric in New Mexico -- Perhaps my comments are not as outrageous as you made them appear. I did apologize for forgetting President Bush. I did not see your apology for overlooking the terrible treatment of Sen. Clinton and Gov. Palin.

I am not the only one who was bothered by it.

karen
|
New York, USA
March 9, 2009

Karen in New York writes:

Perhaps, when the Beacon of the world can elect a more than qualified President who just happens to be a female-someone like...Madame Secretary.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
March 9, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Oh my,(chuckle)...If I had a buck for everytime I've been misinterpreted, I'd be happily retired by now.

Let's start with George W. I don't know if anyone's noticed, but you hardly hear anyone talk about him now, like collective amnesia resulting from everyone being sick and tired of talking about him for the last 8 years, and so I was simply reflecting on the human condition inherent in his lack of mention, not as some dark criticism of Rosemary's comment.

@ Chevalier in Georgia -- With a 5000 character limit Chevalier, it is not possible to address all the aspects of women in the workplace.

Now in 30 years of construction, 10 years as a professional recording studio engineer, 5 in restaurants, and about 150 other types of jobs in a 35 year work history from 14-49 , many overlapping and two jobs at once while remodelling my own home and being a full time dad with a wife(now x)that earned more than I did as an RN; We have some fundemental experiential differences in perspective, and all are valid as experienced, mine no less than your's.

I've worked with, for, and hired women.

In all that time the only determination of pay was as witnessed to be a) Skill set and experience, B) attitude and team player ability, C) consistancy and reliability.

Nothing else mattered more in upward mobility on the job than that.

However, there's always exceptions. If you've ever seen the movie "Charlie Wilson's War" there's a scene in which a preacher from Texas makes remark to Senator Wilson's secretary that he'd never seen so many beautiful women working in the same place. To which she remarked, " The Senator has a saying, You can teach them to type, but you can't teach them to grow tits."

Being a man, I don't suppose you ladies will grasp what it feels like to be refused a job because you can't grow tits, but there's two sides to gender bias in the workplace, I can assure you.

So whatever planet you may think I come from, I'm a man who fell to Earth, grounded by reality.

Beam me the hell up Scotty, there's no fairness doctrine here.

LOL!

---
@ Eric in New Mexico -- "It's not like folks can set gender quotas for Congress."

Why not? They do it in Scandinavia.

@ Melissa in Pennsylvania-- Because Melissa, it would take a constitutional ammendment to make it law.

Current constitutional boundaries just don't have a provision to allow it.

I suppose it could be done, but was Affirmitave Action targeted at Congress? No. Why? Because the only constitutionally allowed method to seat a Congressman or Congresswoman is by the popular vote of the people.

Say you have two male candidates in a district and no female running, yet the quota demands the district elect a woman to Congress. OK, well the men have the option of getting a sex change opp. I guess, or the next congresswoman from the district would be no one running for the vote of confidence of the people, but one simply apointed by decree.

And that ain't democratic.

(with the case of Obama's former senate seat, such a rare situation proves the legal exception to the rule.)

@ Rosemary in New Jersey -- Rosemary, I didn't ask you to appologize because you didn't need to, Why should I appologize?, I already addressed it in my first post.

"Now I do appreciate what you said about the women candidates in this last election, and I found it to be typical gutter politics as usual, sad but true."

Going after Palin's family was going into the sewer, but then who here remembers Jimmy Carter's brother Billy. "Billy Beer" anyone?

This was no precedent in politics, it was same old same old tired partisanship and the ethicly brain dead fourth estate munching down on "dirty laundry", and I won't feel the need ever to appologize for other's bad behavior when I'm not involved in it.

As far as priorities went in this election, the public excised the race deamon from the political landscape by electing Barack Obama, and we can truly say we've emerged from the dark ages of segregation.

The public felt that electing a woman president was just as viable and doable and revolutionary, so where's the bias? Sec. Clinton proved it could be done. Do you hear her complaining about it because she didn't get the nod from her party?

I think this is turning into a real interesting discussion. Where it will go, nobody knows....(chuckle).

Ole
|
New York, USA
March 9, 2009

Ole in New York writes:

Women's rights are best expanded by standing up to those who deny them. incentives ultimately get swallowed by those tyrants we try to appease and soften with them, while the threat of punishment, even to the effect of losing power over their countries, force oppressors to make concessions and reforms. And it's true not only in regard of women's rights, but all human rights, democracy etc. Sun Kyi Mun has been under house arrest for almost 20 years, after winning presidential election in Burma; how do you force the junta there to allow her assume power, by incentives? They don't seem to respond to that. now, talk about the abuse and denial of women's rights -- this is possibly the most outrageous such case of them all! And let's not doubt our own righteousness here. for all its shortcomings, in election process, wage disparity and whatever not, U.S.A. is the beacon of women's and generally human rights for the rest of the world. whatever we have here to improve, is in much better shape than in Iran, China or Russia, so we have full right to criticize them, and sanction if necessary

Melissa
|
Pennsylvania, USA
March 10, 2009

Melissa in Pennsylvania writes:

@ Eric in New Mexico -- I do believe there is a question posed at the top of this post, and that you're the only one who hasn't offered an answer, only criticism. All you've done is take up space and talk down to the very thoughtful, intelligent women participating here, thus proving our point re: the treatment of women in our own oh-so-enlightened, egalitarian nation.

And, BTW, I'm quite aware that it would take a constitutional amendment to set gender-parity quotas in congress. The fact you can only offer asinine scenarios to show that such a system would be undemocratic only means that you can't be bothered to research how it actually works in practice in, say, Sweden. You're obviously hostile to the very idea of such parity; don't think for a minute you're fooling anyone.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
March 10, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

How Best Can Women's Rights Be Expanded Internationally?

When Muslim religious leaders decide Sharia law must become consistant with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, then and only then will the full human potential of Muslim nations be realized.

When half a nation is worth half that of a man in a court of law, there can be no justice for all.

Amanda
|
West Virginia, USA
March 10, 2009

Amanda in West Virginia writes:

I would like to state, as a woman, I voted for Barack Obama, first in the primary and then in the general election, not because I felt a woman couldn't handle the job, but because I felt Mr. Obama would address my needs.

That being said, Gov. Palin and Sec Clinton were treated HORRIBLY. What does it matter what they where and how their hair is styled? No one questioned John McCain's suits or Barack Obama's shoes. There is a very clear double standard when it comes to women in politics. I hope to someday be involved in government, but as an overweight woman I can just imagine the headlines.

We, as women, need to empower each other. We are way too quick to criticize each other. I am guilty of this as well but am trying to better myself, now that I am a mother and want to ensure that my son treats women the way he aught to.

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