Half the Sky.

I originally wrote this post over the Christmas holiday, and meant to finish it and post it.  In the craziness of  leaving one country and coming back to another,  I forgot about it.

Then tonight, I sat in my car for the umpteenth time listening to an NPR story all the way through.  I wanted to learn more about the story, and thought it would make an interesting blog post.  Then I remembered, I already have a blog! And I could take stories like the NPR and turn them into entires in my poor, slightly defunct, blog!

So, here is my Chinese New Year’s resolution: a blog a week. About anything that has piqued my interest in the journalism world. I’m doing it partly for the writing practice which will come in handy for (fingers crossed) graduate school, and [partly to assuage the guilt I feel for having a blog and not writing in it.

So here it is, my first blog of the year of the rabbit:

I’m currently in the midst of reading Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” the 2009 book by Pulitzer Prize-winning couple Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

The book pulls at my heartstrings, it has lots of interviews and plenty of suggestions for how anyone can make a difference.

Once fact however was just mentioned once, without any followup by the authors.  Kristof and WuDunn mention that in October 2007, Joe Biden and Richard Lugar introduced S. 2279: International Violence Against Women Act.

This bill would provide $175 million a year worldwide to prevent and respond to threats to women and girls through existing programs such as USAID, the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the US Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003,  The Support for East European Democracy (SEED) Act of 1989, the FREEDOM Act, and others.   The bill would also create an Office of Women’s Global Initiatives in the office of the secretary of state, and a Women’s Global Development Office within USAID.

I did some research, because as a political science student I’m not satisfied when I hear about a great bill, I want to see it become law.  S. 2279 was read twice, and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.  The bill was then re-introduced by Howard Berman of California as HR. 5927 International Violence Against Women Act of 2008 in April of that year.  It was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Relations, and died.

In the 111st Congress, the bill was introduced in the House as HR. 4594 by William Delahunt of Massachussets in February 2010, and it was referred to the House Armed Services committee, and died.  Also in February 2010, John Kerry introduced the bill in the senate as S.2982 and it was again referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  This time, the bill’s text was revised and it was reported out, and placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar in December of 2010.

The Senate Legislative Calendar is the list of bills and resolutions awaiting Senate floor action.  S. 2982 was placed in the General Orders section, which means it would be addressed according to the sequence in which is was added.  As item number 725 on the docket, this piece of legislation was not addressed, and once again, died.

Why is this an important piece of legislation? And in particular, why should Mississippi voters care?

First of all, women are the key in the developing world.  I won’t attempt to rehash the already solid arguments of writers such as Kristof and WuDunn, Greg Mortenson, and others.  Suffice to say that when women get an education and when  micro-finance focuses on women,  their families and their communities thrive.  The United States has a lot of intelligent, powerful women who change the world on the local, national, and international levels.  By passing S.2982, we would help women around the world reach the same level of empowerment, education, and economic success that women here at home enjoy.

Now the second question, why should Mississippians care?  Roger Wicker, the state’s newly elected Senate representative was on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the 111st Congress.  He could sit there again, now that his party has the majority and he is a sophomore Senator.  This makes Mississippi voters a powerful voice to help move this bill further in Congress than it has gone yet.  By writing letters and calling Senator Wicker’s office to encourage him to make the bill a priority, Mississippi voters can help women around the world.

But it’s not just Mississippi voters who have a voice.  Sadly, most of the Senators who have sponsored or co-sponsored the bill have been Democrats, and not many Republicans are behind this important legislation.  By encouraging your Senator or Representative, regardless of their political affiliation, this bill could have more bipartisan support, which is what legislation needs in a split government like ours is  now.

A cause like this is Democratic, it’s not Republican. It’s not pro or anti-government. It’s just good sense. Invest in women’s futures, and you invest in the futures of their countries.  Invest in a developing country, and you invest in stronger ties between that country and the US.  It’s a brighter future for everyone, and it just makes sense.