The WIP The global source for women's perspectives

American Foreign Policy and Women’s Global Health:The WIP hosts an online chat with Americans for UNFPA

by Katharine Daniels
Executive Editor, The WIP

Though the USA has typically been a leader in women’s rights, the policies of the Bush Administration have taken us backwards in terms of women’s issues, especially policies regarding the health and rights of women globally. Currently, the USA the only country in the world that does not financially contribute to UNFPA (the United Nations Population Fund) for reasons that are political and not financial. With Barack Obama as President-elect, we have reason to be hopeful that U.S. funding to UNFPA will be restored. There are many challenges facing the USA, but we must ensure that restoring American leadership on women’s issues is included and prioritized in the foreign policy of the new Administration.

On Monday, December 8th from 10am-12pm PST we were joined by Anika Rahman, the President of Americans for UNFPA, for a live online chat. As head of the official support organization for the United Nations women’s health agency, Anika’s role is to increase American engagement in the promotion of the health and rights of women globally. For more than twelve years Anika has monitored and analyzed United States and international policies that affect the reproductive health and rights of women.

Meet Our Co-Host, Anika Rahman

Now, as Americans and as global citizens, we have work to do. Whether Barack Obama emerges as a powerful and great world leader will depend on the foreign policy decisions he makes as President of the United States. As Anika states so eloquently in her video, “our foreign policy has to start dealing with the realities of women’s lives.” Whether it is the reality of maternal healthcare in Malawi, the use of rape as a weapon of war in Burma, the burden of poverty and malnutrition from climate change in the Philippines, breast cancer prevention among aboriginal women in Australia, the lack of legal custody rights for women in Bahrain, or no affordable and accessible antiretroviral drugs for HIV-infected women in Zimbabwe – we have been delivering these realities to you weekly.

We are committed to elevating the status of women because we know that when women are empowered, entire communities benefit. As leaders in media, women deliver the stories that matter most to our communities. As leaders on the world stage, we measure our greatness not by our power and might, but instead by the health and well-being of our children, our communities, and our environment. We know that through women’s voices we will discover solutions to our global problems that are achievable, sustainable, and that benefit everyone.

Participating WIP Contributors Discuss American Foreign Policy and Global Women’s Health
Pilirani Semu-Banda

“As America ushers in a new administration, the developing world, including Africa, is keen to know what improvements will trickle down from the world’s super-power. For the women of Malawi, a poor southern African country where up to 45 percent of the country’s 13.1 million people lives below the poverty line of $1 a day, their very lives depend on it.”
…read full essay
Parul Sharma
“The girl child in the photograph has committed many mistakes – the first is being born a girl in a society where girls are simply a burden, and the second is being born with tumors in her head that require constant medical attention. In India, there are less than 93 women for every 100 men. The horrendous reason for such disparity is the practice of female infanticide in India, partly prompted by the existence of a dowry system. For a poor family, the birth of a girl child can signal the beginning of severe hardship and even financial ruin. There is also the notion of the family lineage, which according to custom, can only be propagated through the male line. However, this anti-female bias is by no means limited to poor families. Much of the discrimination has to do with cultural beliefs and social norms, which are extremely prevalent in all of India’s social classes. The problem is as big, if not bigger in Korea, China and some African states.” …read full essay

Cheery Zahau
“Half of Burma’s 54 million people are women. The ignorant and failed policies of Burma’s military regime have caused women and children to endure extreme suffering. UNIFEM reports a high rate of maternal mortality (approximately 517 per 100,000 live births), and their children suffer from an extremely high rate of moderate malnutrition and preventable diseases. A UNICEF study reveals that out of the 1.3 million children born every year in Burma, more than 92,500 will die before they reach their first birthday and another 138,000 will die before the age of 5.” …read full essay

How to Participate

The WIP’s Community Chat is an online discussion forum where The WIP’s contributors, editors, featured experts and community members can participate in real time dialog on important global issues. We are excited about our partnership with Americans for UNFPA and hope that by coming together, we can identify tangible and realistic ways for all of us to get involved and make a difference in women’s lives. We invite you to get the conversation started here, by posting your thoughts, ideas or questions through our commenting feature and we’ll use your comments as a way to start the chat.

Though this Community Chat is no longer active, you can view the archived conversation by clicking the link.

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