From a blog post by Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times:

The U.S. Senate is taking a welcome step: empowering a subcommittee specifically charged with global women’s issues. It’s the first time a subcommittee has had that mandate, and it will be led by Barbara Boxer of California, who will surely use her voice and spotlight to do some good on these issues.

Issues like trafficking and maternal mortality and sexual violence finally seem to be getting some traction. Eve Ensler has helped put a relentless spotlight on mass rape in the Congo, aid groups like CARE, Women for Women International and Vital Voices have been doing an outstanding job emphasizing the role that women can play in economic development, the “Elders” group is talking about taking on some of these issues, and there’s discussion of a major international initiative against obstetric fistula. My own hope is that Michelle Obama grabs that issue. The new Senate subcommittee reflects all this progress and presumably under Senator Boxer will accelerate it.

And from Boxer’s announcement, included in Kristof’s post:

During Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s confirmation hearing, Boxer referred to a series of stories by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof that detailed violent attacks against women in Afghanistan and Asia. Boxer raised the need for a new commitment by the United States to ending violence and discrimination against women around the world, telling Clinton, “No woman or girl should ever have to live in fear or face persecution for being born female.”

Clinton pledged that, “as Secretary of State, I view these issues as central to our foreign policy. Not as adjunct or auxiliary, or in any way lesser than all of the other issues we have to confront… And it will be my hope to persuade more governments… that we cannot have a free, prosperous, peaceful, progressive world if women are treated in such a discriminatory and violent way.”

Boxer continued, “This new subcommittee assignment offers a tremendous opportunity to shine the light of day on a very overlooked issue. Too often, we turn our eyes away as women are persecuted, abused and treated as second-class citizens. But even the most conservative historians have noted that when women are given the freedom to live up to their full potential, society as a whole flourishes. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Congress and with Secretary Clinton to stamp out violence against women in the world.”

The name of the subcommittee is the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues.

But for all its newness, there’s extremely little coverage of the announcement, not even at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s website – which is quite uninspiring, to say the least. I’m not sure if that’s because it’s been an otherwise busy news day – stimulus, Ginsburg, Solis, Panetta, bad economic numbers – again, or some other reason.

So – what do you want them to do? Do first? Not do at all? While it’s shocking that it’s never been created before, it’s even more depressing that we need one at all.  I would say this is another example of how having women in leadership positions makes a positive difference.

JILL MILLER ZIMON
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