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 April 21 to April 28, was compiled with support from Anne Connell, Alyssa Dougherty, and Loren Grier.
Marine Le Pen advances to French run-off
Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen placed second in the initial round of voting in French presidential elections this week, guaranteeing her place in the final round of voting in two weeks. Only one other woman in history has advanced as far in a presidential race in France, which has one of Europe’s lowest rates of female participation in federal and local government. Le Pen received nearly 7.7 million votes, an uptick from the 6.4 million votes she received in the first round of a prior bid for the presidency in 2012. Le Pen’s anti-globalization and nationalist rhetoric have resonated in regions struggling with factory closings and job losses, as high rates of unemployment, economic stagnation, and concerns about immigration divide the nation’s voters. Despite pockets of deep support, recent polls suggest that Le Pen lags at least 20 points behind her rival, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron; however, after a year of unpredictable elections across Europe and in the United States, many analysts are hesitant to discount her odds of taking the presidency.
W20 Summit addresses women in the economy
This week marked the third annual Women20 Summit (W20), which gathers leaders on the margins of the G20 to promote women’s economic participation. This year’s summit in Berlin focused on financial inclusion, labor force participation, the digital gender divide, and women’s economic empowerment within G20 nations. Concrete outcomes from the summit include a communiqué that outlines extensive measures to strengthen women’s economic empowerment, close the gender pay gap, promote microfinance opportunities in developing countries, and ensure women’s representation in the boardroom, which will be presented in core G20 negotiations. At the W20 meeting, which was led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and joined by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, the United States—represented by Ivanka Trump–announced talks to create a new financing facility to support women’s entrepreneurship in partnership with the World Bank.
Saudi Arabia joins UN Commission on Women
Saudi Arabia will join the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) for a four-year term beginning in 2018. The Gulf kingdom has made modest advances in promoting women’s rights in recent years: in the 2015 Saudi elections, women were able to vote and run for office for the first time in history. Yet the country’s move to join CSW sparked criticism from human rights advocates, who cite the country’s slow progress in adopting significant reforms to improve women’s status under the law. Following the U.S.-sponsored secret ballot of members of the Economic and Social Council that approved the appointment, Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, decried it as “absurd” and “reprehensible,” given Saudi Arabia’s record as one of the most gender-segregated nations in the world. Saudi Arabia continues to have a number of severely discriminatory laws on the books, including driving and travel bans, laws on male guardianship, and limitations on women’s ability to access identification or pass citizenship to children. Algeria, Comoros, Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Iraq, Japan, Republic of Korea, Turkmenistan, Ecuador, Haiti and Nicaragua will also join the Commission.