Friday marked the 104th International Women’s Day, a celebration of advancements made by women in social, political, and economic spheres. Take, for example, the wild success of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, a powerful businesswoman and self-proclaimed feminist who just published Lean In, her book of personal reflections on leadership, women in the workplace and individual growth. The controversial debut has inspired criticism from the likes of Maureen Dowd, Melissa Gira Grant, and Jodi Kantor, but Nation columnist Katha Pollitt gives her own reading and argues that feminists were far too quick to judge Sandberg’s motives for writing. Pollitt also reminds us that International Women’s Day represents an opportunity to discuss the ongoing need for action and advancements in human rights around the world.
Veteran journalist and author Ann Jones opens up that dialogue with a compelling look at Afghan women facing an uncertain future. As the US withdrawal looms large, she speaks to female advocates in Kabul who are carrying on a fierce, lonely fight for women’s rights in the face of President Hamid Karzai’s government, and without much help from the United States. Talking to lawyers and social workers, psychologists and students, she reports on what they have gained in the past decade, and what they stand to lose—or keep—with 2014 on the horizon.
2014 will also mark the twentieth anniversary of the 1994 United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), a conference that established women’s rights as central to development efforts and institutionalized the policy accepting a woman’s right to control her own body. Barbara Crossette explains the decades-long backlash to the agreement led by a coalition of anti-abortionists, anti-LGBT activists and anti-feminists. She reports on conservative religious and social forces at work aiming to roll back these advances, and warns that the people most wary of the coming anniversary are the strongest supporters of the rights of women and gay people.
On the homefront, activists in the US celebrated this past week as President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act into law with added protections for the LGBT community and immigrant and Native American women. However, services addressing the needs of domestic violence victims could still be subject to budget cuts and, as it stands now, the implementation of the sequester would result in $20 million cut from VAWA programs. Find out how you can take action to implore your representatives to ensure that domestic violence victims are not used as bargaining chips.
Jessica Arons reports on the Helms Amendment, which bans the use of US foreign aid for all abortion care, including for victims of sexual assault.