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 September 24 to October 1, was compiled by Valerie Wirtschafter and Katherine Hall.
New Development Goals—Including One Focused on Gender Equality—Adopted at the United Nations
Last Friday, United Nations (UN) member states formally adopted new sustainable development goals (SDGs) during a session of the UN General Assembly. Women’s issues are integrated throughout the seventeen goals that comprise the SDG framework, and the fifth goal—to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”—is focused entirely on the advancement of women. At a high-level meeting on gender equality, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated the importance of goal five, noting, “We cannot achieve our 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development without full and equal rights for half of the world’s population, in law and in practice…We cannot effectively respond to humanitarian emergencies without ensuring women and girls are protected and their needs prioritized.” Following the adoption of the new development agenda, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) released a document that examines how girls in particular fared in the SDGs. ICRW notes that although calls for gender equality were much more pronounced than in past global development agendas, “Without full funding and meaningful implementation, even the best framework will be unable to achieve its pledge to leave no one behind.”
World Leaders Helm Summit Marking 20th Anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action
Last weekend, eighty world leaders convened at the United Nations to mark the twentieth anniversary of the UN Fourth World Conference on Women and reaffirm their commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment outlined in the Beijing Platform for Action adopted in 1995. At the meeting, leaders acknowledged significant progress in improving the status of women and girls around the world, but noted that there is still considerable work to be done. At the event, heads of state made country-specific pledges for ending discrimination against women. President Xi Jinping of China, who co-hosted the event with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, announced a $10 million commitment to UN Women to help implement the Beijing Platform. The Chinese government, however, has recently come under fire for poor human rights practices against women, and the summit invited questions about China’s commitment to women’s rights. In the lead up to the event, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power profiled twenty women held unjustly as political prisoners around the world, including three from China. Two of the prisoners featured in the #FreeThe20 campaign were released this past weekend, one from Egypt and one from Vietnam.
Congressman Raises Questions About First Female Graduates from the Army’s Elite Ranger School
One month after two female soldiers became the first women to graduate from the elite Army Ranger School, Congressman Steve Russell (OK-R)—a Ranger School graduate—launched an investigation into the validity of the women’s test scores. According to Congressman Russell, a few Ranger instructors raised questions about alleged unequal treatment of women throughout Ranger School. A group of West Point women have responded to these allegations by filing a Freedom of Information Act request for Congressman Russell’s Ranger School records, stating, “The congressman’s implication that Ranger cadre at every level have been dishonest is offensive and goes against our core values.” Since their successful completion of Ranger School, the House Armed Services Committee has honored the two female graduates, and a group of female senators have introduced a resolution commending the women. The Army also announced earlier this month that Ranger School would now be open to all qualified personnel, regardless of gender.