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Five Million Women Protest in India
On New Year’s Day, millions of women in Kerala, India joined a human chain demonstration stretching nearly 400 miles to support women’s right to enter the Sabarimala Temple, in response to violent protests against a Supreme Court decision outlawing the temple’s exclusion of women. Tuesday’s collective action for women’s rights was supported by the ruling party in Kerala, known as the Left Democratic Front, together with more than 170 political and civil society organizations. Standing shoulder to shoulder, women protesters pledged to support ‘renaissance’ values and reform. This mass demonstration builds on a growing wave of activism in India, including the explosion of the #MeToo movement across the country this fall, which led to the resignation of top figure in politics and journalism. Earlier in the year, protests across the country following a tragic rape case pushed the government to introduce reforms addressing violence against women.
U.S. Congress Includes Record Number of Women
On Thursday, the most diverse United States Congress in history was sworn in, with 102 women members. Up from 87 in in 2018, the new Congress is a record 23.4 percent female, and many congresswomen will assume important leadership positions that could influence American foreign policy. Democrats re-elected Nancy Pelosi, the first woman Speaker of the House; Representative Nita Lowey will chair the Appropriations Committee, including the subcommittee dealing with foreign affairs; and Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson will chair the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, with a promise to focus on global climate change policy. The 115th Congress took important steps on global women’s issues in 2018, including passage of the Women’s Economic Empowerment Act, and 2019 may lead to even more gains: research suggests female legislators are more likely to support laws that advance equality for women.
Afghan Women Appointed to Senior Foreign Policy Roles
This week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani named Deputy Foreign Minister Adela Raz as Afghanistan’s first female Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Her appointment follows his announcement last month that Roya Rahmani will be the first female Afghan Ambassador to the United States. Rahmani previously served as Ambassador to Indonesia. The Ghani government has made increasing women’s participation in decision-making roles a priority, and aims to achieve 30 percent representation in key policymaking positions by 2020. Afghanistan now has five female ambassadors, and last month, Hosna Jalil was appointed as deputy for policy and strategic affairs, becoming the first woman to hold a senior role in the Ministry of Interior.