Three women’s rights and health groups today commemorated Women’s Equality Day by releasing a scorecard rating the Bush administration on global women’s issues. The Global Women’s Issues Scorecard on the Bush Administration was unveiled at a press conference in Washington, DC this morning featuring leaders of the three groups: Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority; Jodi Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE); and June Zeitlin, executive director of the Women’s Environmental and Development Organization (WEDO). “When women are equal and women are empowered, we are a safer, more secure, and more prosperous world,” said Zeitlin.
The groups selected issues important to women globally and rated the Bush administration’s rhetoric on the issues, as well as the current reality. For example, the Bush administration received a “B” on its rhetoric about Afghan women, but received an “F” for the reality. “A year ago President Bush declared that women’s rights had been restored in Afghanistan and that girls had returned to school,” said Smeal. “Last week we learned that because of the worsening security situation in the country more girls’ schools have been set on fire by fundamentalist extremists. Because the Bush Administration refuses to support expansion of international peace troops beyond Kabul, girls’ schools are under attack, regional warlords are able to impose Taliban-like restrictions, people who speak out for women’s rights and human rights receive threats, and many women still wear the burqa out of fear.” The administration received incompletes for both rhetoric and reality on the passage of the Convention to End all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the International Women’s Rights treaty, because of its inaction on the issue. Last summer, the 1979 treaty passed for the first time out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but it has not yet been brought up for a vote by the full Senate. If there was a vote, says Smeal, CEDAW would pass. “What Senator in what year wants to go down in history being opposed to basic equality for women?” she said.
Other issues included international family planning; Bush’s HIV/AIDS initiative; women in Iraq; and the impact of agricultural subsidies on women in developing countries. “Women here and around the world heard the Bush administration’s rhetoric and it gave them hope,” said Zeitlin. “But women are waiting for the reality to see [if] the administration can deliver on women’s rights.” Regarding the grade of “F” the Bush administration received for the reality of international family planning, Jacobson emphasized that so-called pro-life groups should not be celebrating. “I’m not really clear on the definition of ‘pro-life’ if that doesn’t mean concern about the 600,000 women who die each year from complications of childbirth,” she said.