Council on Foreign Relations Women and Foreign Policy Update March 2013

Marking International Women's Day

Women's Security at Risk in Middle East and North Africa

In honor of International Women's Day, the Woodrow Wilson Center asked experts around the world to reflect on challenges to women's security in the Middle East in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings. Senior Fellow Isobel Coleman commented on the worrying spike of politically motivated sexual violence against women, particularly in Egypt where women have been the victims of systematic mass sexual assaults. At stake is not just a woman's personal safety and dignity, but also her right to move in the public sphere and participate in the ongoing political transition, Coleman explained. Read the Blog Post on Democracy in Development »

Is Religion Good for Women?

For International Women's Day, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation asked experts to comment on the question, "Is religion good for women?" Coleman noted that reformers have long turned to religious arguments to generate support--among men and women--for an expansion of female educational, social, economic, and political opportunities. "Religion can both impede change, and facilitate it," she writes. Read the Article »

Women's Rights Contested

Women's Rights Scrutinized in India

The rape and subsequent death of a young Indian woman late last year sparked outrage and prompted greater scrutiny of the low status of women in India, where they face discriminatory family codes, lack of education, and cultural stigmas. A new CFR Backgrounder examines how the country's overburdened and under-funded criminal justice system exacerbates the plight of rape and sexual assault victims, and the steps the government is taking to tackle the problem. CFR Fellow Rachel Vogelstein notes that "there's been a culture of impunity around a lot of these issues. They have laws on the books that address all these issues, yet these problems continue to flourish part in many parts of India." Read the Backgrounder »

Women Are Transforming the Middle East

In an interview with the Saudi-U.S. Trade Group, Coleman says that in the two years since the Arab revolutions started, there have been a number of incidents fought along gender lines that underscore the contentious nature of women's rights in all of these societies. Read the Interview »

Sports, Girls, and Development

Empowering Girls Through Sports

Katie Rock, a human rights attorney and founder of Activyst, says that the benefits of girls playing sports in terms of health, educational achievement, and confidence are well known, but girls in developing countries are unlikely to play sports. To overcome high barriers for girls' participation in sports, girls need organized activities, a safe place, and the support of their parents. Read the Post on the Development Channel »



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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