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, covering February 11 to February 18, was compiled by Anne Connell and Becky Allen.
Women in the Syrian peace talks Despite months of civil society activism, women have largely been excluded from participation in the formal Syrian peace process, and talks set to begin next week show no signs of breaking this pattern. The December convening of global leaders in Paris to create a roadmap for the peace talks involved no women in positions of influence. Since then, United Nations Syrian Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, invited Syrian women and civil society representatives to contribute to the talks through an independent Women’s Advisory Board—a promising move, though the board remains isolated from direct stakeholder negotiations. Advocates for more inclusive negotiations argue that women could play a pivotal role in conflict resolution and the creation of durable peace in Syria: a 2015 study of 182 peace agreements shows that accords reached with women involved in direct talks are 35 percent more likely to last at least fifteen years.
Indian court elevates women’s equality The Indian Supreme Court acknowledged that, while there is “a long way to go” for women to attain in practice the equality with men granted to them by the Indian constitution, the issue is the “need of the hour.” In a thirty-eight-page written ruling on a case of gender-based discrimination brought by an Indian police sub-inspector denied a promotion, the court recognized the relationship between women’s empowerment and broader economic development in India. In its ruling, India’s top court cited a study by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and wrote that “…empowerment can accelerate development. From whichever direction the issue is looked into, it provides justification for giving economic empowerment to women.” The ruling suggested that advancing the rights of women in India is not only a matter of fundamental human rights but also a strategic imperative to promote the country’s prosperity and stability.
UN promotes role of women and girls in science The United Nations (UN) held the first International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11 in an effort to highlight the critical role of women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The aim of the new UN day, adopted last December, is to strengthen science education, encourage greater participation of women and girls in STEM careers, and promote the achievements of women in all scientific fields. Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, marked the day with a call to close the substantial gender gap in science research: only 28 percent of scientific researchers worldwide are women. Bokova also emphasized that empowering women and girls in science is an essential step towards achieving the goals laid out by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.