Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Democracy & Women
The American goal of fostering democratic change abroad is largely contingent on expanding the rights and roles of women.
That was an underlying message I gleaned earlier this month when a group of editorial writers attended two days of briefings with top-ranking State Department officials spanning a variety of geographic areas and disciplines.
Where women have full legal rights, where societies afford them the same educational, economic and political opportunities as men, freedom is ascendant. Where violence, human rights abuse and every form of deprivation reign, women are generally excluded from full participation in civic life.
In Afghanistan, women have been granted the right to drive for the first time:
A new plan in Herat to teach women to drive and give them licenses is at once a symbol of the official rights women continue to win in Afghanistan and a reminder of the difficulties they still confront in exercising those freedoms.
Inaugurated a few weeks ago, the driving program is part of a flowering of liberties here that followed the central government's dismissal in September of the provincial governor, Ismail Khan, a religiously conservative strongman who proved almost as repressive toward women as the Taliban militia he replaced.
It is important to remember stories like this when there are still people in this country stupidly implying that our interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq were motivated by oil or empire. In the face of all the good America has done for women in those countries, we still get statements like this from Kim Gandy, head of NOW, regarding President Bush:
In only three-and-a-half years, George W. Bush and the right-wing leadership in Congress have undermined and eroded more than four decades of advancements for women....We are declaring a State of Emergency for women's rights and calling upon all of our allies and supporters to get involved in the election process to put an end to the relentless attacks on women.
I suppose Ms. Gandy only supports rights for women when a Democrat does it. How sad.
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