Following weeks of tumult and protests in North Africa and the Middle East, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) joined an effort led by Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) with her female Senate colleagues in emphasizing the vital importance of women's rights and political participation as leaders in North Africa and the Middle East consider constitutional reforms and shape new governments.
In a resolution introduced today, the 17 Senators are reaffirming their commitment to representative and responsive democratic governments that respect women's rights and are calling on leaders in North Africa and the Middle East to include women when it comes to making decisions that will affect their lives. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Claire McCaskill (D-MI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have joined Snowe as original cosponsors of the resolution.
"Essential to the success and stability of any government is the equal voice and participation of women," said Senator Snowe. "The spirit and devotion exemplified by women in North Africa and the Middle East -- and the ongoing challenges they continue to face -- is both an inspiration to us all and a reminder that discrimination and gender-based violence endures around the world. I honor their commitment to ensuring future generations enjoy the guaranteed equality and basic human rights for which they endeavor to this day and remain steadfast in my commitment to these universal liberties."
"I am pleased to join in supporting this resolution which recognizes that women are important change agents in their societies and reaffirms that countries are more stable and secure when women are empowered and actively involved," Senator Boxer said.
According to reports, while women have sacrificed and peacefully protested side by side with men in nations throughout North Africa and the Middle East, there are signs that women are increasingly being sidelined from the formation of new governments. In Tunisia, according to press reports, only two women have been appointed to the transitional government and in Egypt, not a single woman has been appointed to the council in charge of revamping the constitution. Senator Snowe and her colleagues believe it is vital that women be included in making choices that will affect their lives.
"Women have played a vital role in the changes sweeping North Africa and the Middle East, and they deserve to have a voice in any new governments that emerge there," said Senator Shaheen. "For countries that are establishing new government structures, including women is an opportunity not only to empower them, but to strengthen their entire societies as a whole."
"This resolution honors the brave and compassionate women in North Africa and the Middle East who are working to advance equality and basic human rights. Their economic, civic, and political contributions are critical to advancing democracy and economic opportunity in each of the countries they live in," said Senator Collins.
"In societies where women are equal, where they have the right to vote and to hold office, and where they are empowered to be leaders in their communities, those nations are so much more likely to thrive. Those are the societies that bring up the next generation with the right values, the solid education, and the economic vitality to succeed," said Senator Hutchison.
"We have witnessed courageous women leaders throughout the Middle East and North Africa risking their lives to advance the cause of freedom, democracy and basic human rights. As Secretary Clinton has rightly said, "The rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st Century.' As we honor these inspiring women, I also urge all world leaders to continue the push for women's progress," said Senator Gillibrand.
"Across the world, and especially in the events occurring in the Middle East and North Africa, women are not only taking part in the call for greater respect of human rights, acceleration of democratic reforms and expansion of freedom, they are leading the charge. These women are leading by example, and their resolve in the face of adversity should inspire us all across the globe to work for a more peaceful and just world," Senator Landrieu said.
"The men and women of many nations in North Africa and the Middle East have banded together to oppose oppression and unrepresentative governments. New governments arising from these movements that do not foster the full participation of women are not truly representative and are not full departures from old regimes. Women must have equal rights if new governments are to reflect the ideals of the movements that spawned them," said Senator Stabenow.
"I'm proud to support this resolution to support women's rights and women's participation in emerging democracies. Women in North Africa and the Middle East have fought alongside their male counterparts to call for representative and democratic governments. During this period of change, it's critical that women's voices are at the table and that women hold leadership roles in the new governments," said Senator Cantwell.