[Marxism] Foe of 'Radical Feminism' To Train Iraqi Women
sandinista at shaw.ca
Tue Dec 7 15:23:50 MST 2004
>From Third World Resurgence Nov/Dec 2004
Foe of 'radical feminism' to train Iraqi women
By Jim Lobe
The Bush administration has selected an anti-feminist group to train Iraqi
political participation and democracy.
A US group opposed to government provided childcare, equal pay for equal
work and quotas for women in government service will train Iraqi women in
political participation and democracy prior to the 2005 elections in that
The anti-feminist, Washington based Independent Women's Forum (IWF) is one
of a number of organisations chosen by the US State Department to carry out
its $10 million Iraqi Women's Democracy Initiative.
But unlike the other groups, which include the Meridian International
Centre, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National
Democratic Institute (NDI), IWF has no experience in international exchange
and democracy-promotion activities.
The organisation was founded in 1991 by a number of prominent rightwing
Republican women to act as a counterpoint to what they called the 'radical
feminism' of the National Organisation for Women (NOW), a grassroots group
with about 500,000 subscribing members nationwide.
Among the IWF's founders were Lynne Cheney, the Spouse of Vice President
Dick Cheney and former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities;
Labour Secretary Elaine Chao; and Kate O'Beirne, Washington editor of the
right-wing "National Review" and a former senior vice president at the
Another founder was Midge Decter, the former co-chair - with Defence
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - of the Committee for the Free World and one of
the founders of neo-conservatism along with her spouse, Jim Lobe former
"Commentary" editor Norman Podhoretz.
Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, who announced
the grant at a press briefing in the week of 27 September, has also served
on IWF's board of advisers.
'Talk about ut an inside deal - the IWF represents a small group of
rightwing wheeler-dealers inside the (Washington) beltway,' according to
Eleanor Smeal president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
The IWF, which according to its mission statement was 'established to combat
the women-as-victim, pro-big-government
ideology of radical feminism', has taken a number of controversial positions
over the years in pursuit of that goal.
It has strongly opposed the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of
Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in part because it would mandate
governments to enforce laws guaranteeing equal pay for equal work.
'This is "comparable worth", a system of government wage-setting that
Americans have rightly rejected as inefficient and antithetical to free
market principles,' the IWF has argued.
It has also objected to CEDAW's requirements that governments guarantee
'maternity leave with pay' and child-care facilities as well as its
suggestions for minimum quotas to ensure that women are represented at all
levels in governments.
Ironically, the Bush administration adopted the latter suggestion for Iraq
in the interim law approved by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority
(CPA), which is supposed to guide elections currently scheduled for January.
The IWF has also opposed affirmative action and federal programmes designed
to prevent sexual discrimination in educational institutions that receive
federal government funding. The administration appointed IWF President Nancy
Mitchell Pfotenhauer to the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against
Women despite the fact that the group opposed the Violence Against Women
The IWF has also been accused of partisanship for Its staunch defence of
Republican Party positions and its attacks on prominent Democrats.
Last May, for example, it issued a statement assailing Democratic
presidential candidate John Kerry for demanding that Pentagon chief Rumsfeld
step down to take responsibility for the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal,
insisting Kerry was publicising the issue 'to raise money'.
Several weeks earlier, it launched an aborted petition drive to condemn 'the
bitter political grandstanding' by Democratic members of the bipartisan 9/11
Commission, who IWF accused of 'working for Senator John Kerry', instead of
for 'all Americans'.
IWF's staff consists primarily of former Republican activists with extensive
government and lobbying experience but little or no experience in democracy
promotion, international affairs or the Middle East.
The one exception is Senior Vice President Rieva Holycross, who has a
doctorate in anthropology and a 30-year career in academia and works for a
multinational engineering firm as chief marketing officer in charge of
strategic communication, according to the IWF website. It is not clear if
she will be working on the Iraq project.
Announcing the grant, Secretary of State Colin Powell said each of the
recipient groups 'will work with Iraqi partners on the ground to prepare
women to compete in Iraq's January 2005 elections, encourage women to vote,
train women in media and business skills, and establish resource centres for
networking and counselling'.
IWF Senior Fellow Michelle Bernard, who has practised business law and
government relations in the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa, said the
group had already begun recruiting 150 Iraqi women to participate in a Woman
Leaders Programme and Democracy Information Centre before the grant was
'We'd like to train 150 pro-democracy women on the fundamentals of
democracy, women's political activism in a democracy, and to exchange
ideas - basically to enable Iraqi women to participate in their country and
help Iraq develop a democracy that best suits the needs of that country,'
she was quoted as saying in a State Department press release.
Bernard also said the IWF has planned a five-day conference in December in
Amman, Jordan that will be followed by future meetings on a quarterly basis.
Rather than recruit women to run for office, she said, 'we're just looking
for people who want to participate at the community level, people who are
interested in education (or) people who might want to be policymakers in the
of a think-tank here.' - lP
"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor
is the mind of the oppressed." (Steve Biko)
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