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 September 22 to September 30, was compiled with support from Becky Allen, Anne Connell, and Lauren Hoffman.
Women petition for Korean peace deal More than 130 women activists from thirty-eight countries petitioned UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week to push for a Korean peace agreement before his tenure at the UN ends later in the year. While an armistice signed in 1953 halted open hostilities between North and South Korea, the lack of a formal peace treaty has resulted in a six decade-long state of war. The secretary-general, a former foreign minister of South Korea, pledged in a 2007 speech to bring closure to the war by seeking a permanent peace treaty and establishing transition mechanisms. In their open letter to Ban Ki-moon, activists urged him to “conclude this peace process by 2018, the 70th anniversary of Korea’s division into two separate states” and to “ensure that women are significantly represented in the peace process.” The letter, co-sponsored by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom as well as an activist group that organized a march across the demilitarized zone last year, was signed by a number of prominent women, including playwright Eve Ensler, feminist leader Gloria Steinem, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee.
Ending male guardianship in Saudi Arabia Last week, over fourteen thousand Saudis signed a petition to end male guardianship of women in the Gulf kingdom. After the release of a Human Rights Watch report on the practice earlier this year, Saudi activists launched a campaign to protest guardianship and hold the government accountable to commitments made to end it, most recently in 2009 and 2013 at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Under the restrictive system, women and girls in Saudi Arabia are forbidden from activities such as traveling abroad, renting an apartment, or filing legal claims without the permission—in most cases written—of a husband or immediate male relative. The system effectively renders adult women legal minors. Guardianship has persisted even as Saudi Arabia has made modest reforms in recent years to recognize and expand women’s civic and economic rights: King Abdullah appointed thirty women to the Shura Council in 2013, women were permitted to vote in municipal elections in 2015, and women’s rights to work in the formal economy were expanded. The system of male guardianship and other restrictions on women’s mobility, however, are significant impediments to Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s long-term plan to diversify and grow the economy.
Yazidi activist named UN Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad Basee, a Yazidi activist and survivor of enslavement by the so-called Islamic State group, was named a UNODC Goodwill Ambassador earlier this month. She was also nominated by Iraq for a Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy on behalf of the Yazidi ethnic and religious minority. In August 2014, Islamic State militants attacked Murad Basee’s small agricultural village of Kocho, executing her mother and six of her brothers and enslaving her. After months in captivity, Murad Basee escaped and fled to Germany. She first testified about her experience and the plight of the Yazidi people under Islamic State rule in a December 2015 meeting of the UN Security Council, shedding light on the group’s systematic rape and sexual enslavement of thousands of women and girls and advocating for Islamic State fighters to be held accountable in international court for their crimes. The UN said that her ambassadorship would “focus on raising awareness of the plight of the countless victims of trafficking” around the world.