Welcome to “Women Around the World: This Week,” a series that highlights noteworthy news related to women and U.S. foreign policy. This week’s post, from October 23 to October 28, was compiled by Valerie Wirtschafter, Dara Jackson-Garrett, and Katherine Hall.
Nepalese Parliament Elects its First Female President
This week, the Nepalese parliament elected Bidhya Devi Bhandari, the deputy leader of the ruling Communist party, to serve as the first female president of Nepal. A longtime advocate for women’s rights, Bhandari was one of a few politicians who worked to ensure that gender equality issues were addressed in the country’s new constitution, which was adopted in late-September. Under the new constitution, one-third of Nepal’s parliamentary leaders must be women and a woman must hold the position of either president or vice-president. The new constitution—and subsequent election of Bhandari—is an important victory for women’s rights advocates in Nepal, following a long history of marginalization.
UN Report Criticizes Iran for its Human Rights Record and Treatment of Women
On Monday, Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, released a report condemning Iran’s dismal human rights record. In the report, Shaheed cites the country’s repression of women, journalists and dissidents as particularly troublesome, and notes that women are still treated like second-class citizens in Iran. Iranian women face a number of restrictions that severely limit their rights. Regardless of age, they are required to have a male guardian’s approval to marry, obtain a passport, and travel outside of country, and a woman’s testimony in court is only worth half the value of a man’s. In 2014, Iran was ranked 137 out of 142 countries according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, a report released annually to measure gender gaps in health, education, economic, and political participation.
New Report by the International Monetary Fund Bolsters Evidence for Women’s Economic Participation as a Driver of Economic Growth
Earlier this week, the International Monetary Fund released a study, Catalyst for Change: Empowering Women and Tackling Income Inequality, which underscores a strong empirical link between gender inequality and income inequality. Despite clear evidence that women’s economic participation is a strong driver of growth, women still face barriers in critical areas, such as access to finance. The study concludes that inequality of opportunity for women—particularly in education and health—is the most important driver of income inequality in emerging markets and developing countries. The report provides additional evidence in support of the new gender equality-focused sustainable development goal (goal five), which includes a commitment to women’s economic participation and a call for equality in property ownership, inheritance, financial services, and natural resources.