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Council on Foreign Relations Women and Foreign Policy - May 2014

Ending Child Marriage

Examining Strategies to Stop Child Marriage

Senior Fellow Gayle Tzemach Lemmon and Research Associate Lynn S. ElHarake examine the effectiveness of various efforts to end child marriage in a new working paper, High Stakes for Young Lives. Even with domestic laws and international accords banning the practice, cultural norms keep child marriage entrenched in communities around the world. As summarized in a blog post for Girls Not Brides, an international partnership to end child marriage, the paper highlights strategies—including girls' education, conditional cash transfers, and behavior change programs—that have had success in curbing the practice. The authors offer recommendations for policymakers and civil society leaders seeking to end child marriage and identify where additional research is needed. Read the paper on »

Using Legal Approaches Against Child Marriage

Rachel Vogelstein, fellow for the Women and Foreign Policy program, hosted Jody Heymann, dean of the University of California (Los Angeles) Fielding School of Public Health, and Yasmeen Hassan, global director of Equality Now, for a conversation about the role of legal systems in ending the practice of child marriage. Citing evidence from ongoing research on the effectiveness of laws setting a minimum age of marriage and sharing anecdotes from their on-the-ground work, the speakers emphasized the need for enforcement of such laws at the national and international levels and coordinated efforts to elevate the status of girls and women at the local level. Listen to the roundtable conversation »

Politics and Women’s Rights

Fighting for Women’s Rights in Iraq

Senior Fellow Isobel Coleman examines the Jafaari Personal Status Law currently being considered by the Iraqi parliament. Comparing the proposed draft with Iraq's existing personal status law, in place since 1959, Coleman discusses how the Jafaari Personal Status Law could be disastrous for women's rights. The bill would "curtail their civil rights in the name of religion, and deepen sectarian tensions in society," writes Coleman, and "would seriously undermine the rights of women and children by permitting unfettered polygamy, a Taliban-like restriction on women's movement, child marriage for girls as young as nine, unequal divorce and custody, and an end to interreligious marriage." Read the article on »

Electing an Afghan President

With the final results of Afghanistan's presidential election still uncertain, Coleman weighs in on the country's first democratic transition of government in its history. Though the elected candidate will face political, economic, and international relations challenges, all the presidential candidates have vowed to support women's rights and actively sought female support in their campaigns, notes Coleman. Whether those vows will be fulfilled remains to be seen. Read the article on »

Female Entrepreneurship and Networks

Inspiring a Growing Network of Women Entrepreneurs

CFR Term Member Benjamin Stone, director of strategy and general counsel at MicroCredit Enterprises and vice chairman of Indego Africa, and Karen Yelick, chief executive officer of Indego Africa, share their experiences helping female entrepreneurs in Rwanda achieve their economic potential. "By generating market demand for products made by Rwandan women, building an international supply chain, and delivering formalized business training to female artisans, Indego strove to help women lift themselves out of poverty and become the country's next business leaders," write Stone and Yelick. They discuss how Indego Africa's newest endeavor, the Leadership Academy, will allow a platform for female artisans not only to help other women grow their businesses, but also to serve as mentors and inspirations for the wider community. Read the blog post on the Development Channel »


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CFR's Women and Foreign Policy program works with leading scholars to analyze how elevating the status of women and girls advances U.S. foreign policy objectives and to bring the status of women into the mainstream foreign policy debate. Among its areas of focus are global health and education, the role of women in peacekeeping, and women’s economic participation.

Rachel Vogelstein
Director and Senior Fellow, Women and
Foreign Policy Program

Catherine Powell
Fellow, Women and
Foreign Policy Program

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Senior Fellow, Women and
Foreign Policy Program

Hannah Chartoff
Research Associate, Women and
Foreign Policy Program

Valerie Wirtschafter
Research Associate, Women and
Foreign Policy Program


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