Two of Concerned Women for America’s (CWA’s) experts are attending the 50th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), held February 27-March 10 at United Nations headquarters in New York. Wendy Wright, CWA’s President, will be directing efforts of the pro-life, pro-marriage, and pro-family citizen lobbyists during the session’s second week. Miss Wright has attended and reported on U.N. conferences on women, population and cloning since 1997.
Dr. Janice Crouse, who heads CWA’s think tank, The Beverly LaHaye Institute, will report on and analyze the current CSW sessions. Dr. Crouse has particular expertise on emphases at this year’s CSW: violence against women, sex trafficking, Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), women’s empowerment, and women’s political participation. Her report follows.
On this special day International Women’s Day women leaders from Iraq and Afghanistan are in the United States. They are celebrating their nations’ progress toward democracy and expressing appreciation to America for creating social conditions that allow them opportunities that were completely out of reach just a few years ago.
Other nations are seeing similar progress in women’s leadership.
Nations like Liberia, Germany, Chile and the Philippines have women presidents. Record numbers of women are members of parliament in the countries of Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and Rwanda.
In our own nation, women are constantly breaking new ground.
More women and more racial minorities now serve in U.S. federal courts than in any previous time. The number of women-owned American businesses increased 20 percent between 1997 and 2002.
Women also hold some of the top jobs in the country: Condoleezza Rice is Secretary of State, Elaine Chao is Secretary of Labor, and Margaret Spellings is Secretary of Education. In the State Department, Karen Hughes is an Ambassador and Under Secretary charged with diplomacy and public affairs, and Paula Dobrianski is Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs. Women hold 24 of the 204 federal political appointments made during 2004.
In the continent of Africa, two special initiatives funded by the United States are providing unprecedented opportunities for women: The African Education Initiative is providing scholarships for girls to attend school. The Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is providing anti-retroviral drugs for women with HIV.
Women are making great strides in Afghanistan and Iraq girls are attending school and women are taking on political leadership roles. Women hold 20 percent of the seats in the Afghan National Assembly and about 25 percent in the upcoming Iraqi Parliament.
Much of this progress is underwritten by funds from the Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative, which is training Iraqi women in political and legislative processes and in human rights and the legal system. Similarly, Afghan women are being mentored by their counterparts here in the United States.
As we review all this progress in our own nation and around the world, contemporary women are indebted beyond measure to those who have sought more opportunities and greater respect for women. It is by their efforts that today’s women enjoy a more extended range of activities and opportunities than any previous generation.
We joyfully acknowledge that many of the earliest and most effective advocates of women’s rights and dignity were women of faith whose convictions were rooted in Biblical truth. Those early advocates recognized that all Christians, male or female, share certain obligations and benefits — that “in Christ there is neither male nor female.”
Today’s women of faith seek to develop Christian character and integrity as we live within our families, churches, neighborhoods and the world. As members of the Christian community, we endeavor individually and collectively to bring the love of Christ and authentic Christian freedom and justice to all — especially the weak and helpless who, too often, are denied the respect due all who are created in God’s image.
Our faith is founded, not on human invention, but on divinely revealed truth. This truth enables us to experience the redemptive, transforming power of Jesus Christ who made freedom and dignity possible for all human beings — for women as well as for men.
Because we are created in God’s image and the grace of God is extended equally to women, we can join the company of those women who first wept in the shadow of the cross and later rejoiced at the empty tomb.
Because the Bible is the most effective force in history for lifting women to higher levels of respect, dignity and freedom, we join an historic succession of women whose Christian faith is forged from Biblical truth and whose lives are shaped into Christ’s image on the anvil of obedience.
Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse heads Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute.