Equality in Iraq

As the debate over the war in Iraq continues, we at the Global Fund continue to receive first-hand reports from our grantees in Iraq. We recently received a report from, the Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq . We wanted to share it with you both for its truthful look at the violence Iraqi women are facing, as well as for the stories of courage and creativity that it embraces.


Members of OWFI speak with reporters in Iraq.


Women's Islamic Initiative

More than 100 Muslim women leaders will meet in New York City this weekend to address the current lack of women's participation in contemporary debates about the political, social and religious concerns of Muslim women in the global community. The Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equity conference will bring together Muslim women from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

The meeting is being organized by Global Fund grantee, The American Society for Muslim Advancement, and one of the key conference topics will be the possible creation of an international shura, or advisory council, to advocate the concerns of Muslim women around the world.

Daisy Khan, organizer of this week's conference, told Muslimwakeup.com that, "What you're seeing is the emergence of a feminist movement."

The conference will also feature the debut performance of 7Women 7Heavens: Portraits of Muslim Women, a new play by Kayhan Irani. Read more about the conference in the Chicago Tribune.


Ugandan Women Light Torch for Peace

Today a group of Ugandan women began a five-day journey from the capital city of Kampala to the Sudanese city Juba, to support peace negotiations between their government and the Lord's Resistance Army.

Since 1987 the LRA has been fighting the Ugandan government for state control. In 1994 the conflict turned regional as both Sudan and Uganda lent support to armed rebellions in each other's states. The conflict has received little attention in the western media, despite an estimated 12,000 deaths due to violence and the resulting malnutrition caused by political chaos. Since July, the LRA and the Ugandan governments have been engaged in peace talks and resulted in a September ceasefire.

Hope Mwesigye, a Ugandan minister, is joining the women's delegation because she believes that women can help resolve one of the continent's oldest conflicts.

 “I am confident that the Juba peace talks will yield positive results. But of course also as women, we have said that it’s high time that everybody came together irrespective of sex, irrespective of gender relations, irrespective of religion, irrespective of where one comes from, that we could also show our commitment to the process, and by everybody else showing commitment to the process, we hope that we can achieve peace,” Mwesigye said.

Women in the House!

Yesterday's U.S. elections brought several key victories for women's rights. As the Democratic party regained control of the House of Representatives — for the first time in 12 years — Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is expected to become the first female speaker of the House! Control of the Senate is still undecided, as Democrats and Republicans watch two close races in Virginia and Montana .

This is one American step in the direction of Liberia and Chile, which have elected women as heads of state in the last year.

South Dakota failed to pass an encompassing piece of legislation which would have banned nearly all abortions in the state. And across the country, pro-choice advocates gained a number of allies.

Internationally the election is seen as a rejection of Bush politics.


Will South Dakota Follow in Nicaragua’s Footsteps?

Last month Nicaragua voted to outlaw all abortions under any circumstances. The statewide ballot initiative in South Dakota that would severely restrict abortion stops short of a total ban by making an exception only to save a woman’s life. But if the proposal passes today, women in South Dakota will have more in common with women in Nicaragua than they would with women in neighboring Minnesota a half hour’s drive away.

This would be a public health disaster. Statistics prove that when women's reproductive rights are protected and they have access to safe and legal contraception, reproductive health care and abortion, the actual rates of abortion are much lower than they are in countries where women do not have such rights.

Recently, the Colombian Constitutional Court voted to legalize abortion in cases of rape and incest, and to save the life of the woman when the fetus is expected to die after birth due to severe fetal abnormalities. But most Latin American countries have extremely restrictive abortion laws, usually allowing only the termination of a pregnancy to save a woman’s life or protect her physical health. El Salvador, Chile and, now, Nicaragua, have further undermined women's human rights by banning abortion in all circumstances.

Women’s groups across the region are working together to promote a deeper understanding of how such coercive measures only increase the burden on women and their children. The Global Fund for Women's 19 years of experience in funding and supporting women's human rights shows that the most effective way to decrease the number of abortions is to support efforts to ensure gender equality and justice for women in all aspects of their lives, including education and information about sexuality and reproductive technology.

In a country such as Nicaragua, where, according to The Guardian, a third of new mothers are aged 16 or younger and women cite domestic abuse as one of their biggest problems, this ruling is an invitation for women to break the law and endanger themselves further. A lot is at stake for South Dakotan women on November 7th.  Latin America’s abortion policy is not a precedent to be followed but a red flag to groups like the Global Fund for Women working for women’s rights across the world.

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