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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 from June 22 to June 30, was compiled with support from Becky Allen, Anne Connell, and Lucy Leban.
Women and the Brexit referendum British Conservative Party politician and UK home secretary Theresa May has become a strong contender to take over as prime minister in the wake of Britain’s June 23 vote to leave the European Union (EU). May is the longest-serving UK home secretary in fifty years, one of only two Conservative women to ever rise to one of the four “great offices” of the state (the other being Margaret Thatcher). She was considered a competitive opponent to former London mayor Boris Johnson, who abruptly withdrew from the contest on Thursday—many now assume her to be the favorite of five nominated Conservatives on the ballot for the first round of voting next week. May, who voted for the UK to remain in the EU, did not enter the fray of divisive debate leading up to the referendum. In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also has elevated her public profile, declaring the Brexit referendum “democratically unacceptable” and acting as the leading voice for a Scottish independence referendum. Despite the prominence of female leaders in the wake of Brexit, women have been critically underrepresented in debates preceding Britain’s vote to leave the EU: research found that just 16 percent of televised policy commentary on EU issues came from female experts, and women have had comparatively little speaking time during debate on the floor of UK parliament.
Historic Colombian ceasefire The Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels signed a ceasefire deal last week, ending a fifty-year conflict that created one of the world’s largest internally displaced populations. The cessation of hostilities sets the stage for one of the most significant disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) efforts in decades—and many female fighters reentering society are likely to face particular challenges. Between 35 to 45 percent of FARC fighters are women serving in active combat, as guards and patrols, and in logistical functions—and in many cases, female FARC guerillas have broken traditional gender norms. However, as evidenced by other DDR processes around the world, reintegration efforts frequently overlook the needs of female ex-combatants, often pushing them into domestic roles or leaving them without economic resources. A Colombian gender sub-commission has worked since 2012 to ensure these concerns are given attention in the peace agreement and DDR process, aiming to include provisions to protect women’s access to land, provide education and pyscho-social services, address stigma facing female ex-combatants, and encourage women’s participation in local and national politics.
Women’s political participation in Kashmir Female voters outnumbered male voters in Kashmir’s special election for the position Chief Minister in the Indian-administered region this week. The election resulted in Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (PDP) member Mehbooba Mufti prevailing over a field of eight candidates by a margin of more than twelve-thousand votes. Mufti had already been sworn in as Kashmir’s first woman chief minister after the death of her father, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, earlier this year; a mandate required that a popular vote also elect the party leader to a house of the bicameral legislature. Constituents cited Mufti’s promises to address unemployment and improve education and healthcare systems as central reasons for their support, despite a worsening security situation in the region. Although voter turnout was low, the election remained peaceful, despite calls from separatist and militant groups to boycott the election. Shortly after her election, Mufti’s PDP party, along with other ruling coalition parties, rejected a bill that would have reserved 20 percent of government appointments for women.