United States: Bush gives anti-feminist group money to train Iraqi women on democracy

United States: Bush gives anti-feminist group money to train Iraqi women on democracy

Douglas, Carol Anne

In a move hotly decried by feminists, the Bush administration has given part of a $10 million grant to the Independent Women’s Forum to train Iraqi women in political participation and democracy.

The IWF is decidedly anti-feminist, as its mission statement says it was established “to combat the women-as-victim, pro-big-government ideology of radical feminism.”

The organization was founded in 1991 by some of the most prominent and outspoken women in the Republican party, including Lynne Cheney, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, former senior vice president of the Heritage Foundation Kate O’Beirne, and Midge Dector, who serves on the board of trustees in the Heritage Foundation and whose husband, Norman Podhoretz, is the founder of neoconservatism.

“Talk about an inside deal, the IWF represents a small group of right-wing wheeler-dealers inside the [Washington] beltway,” Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal said.

The money given to the IWF is part of the State Department’s $10 million allotted to the Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative, which is in place to “facilitate workshops on constitutional law, human rights and civil organization” and “empower them [women] to participate in the political life of their country,” Secretary of State Colin Powell said.

“A new democratic era in Iraq has begun. However, the social and political barriers facing women in Iraq remain high,” said Michelle D. Bernard, a senior fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum. “In order to fully realize women’s human rights in Iraq, all Iraqi citizens, particularly women, must have a good understanding of core principles of democratic governance.”

The Meridian International Center, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, and the Art of Living Foundation were also named as grant recipients. The IWF is the most controversial group to receive money.

In the past, the IWF opposed the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on the grounds that it would allow governments to enforce laws guaranteeing equal pay for equal work, saying this system has been rejected by Americans because it is “antithetical to free market principles.” It also opposes affirmative action and government-funded programs designed to prevent sexual discrimination in educational institutions. The Bush administration has also appointed IWF president Nancy Mitchell Pfotenhauer as the head of the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women even though the IWF opposes the Violence Against Women Act.

According to the IWF, the organization will partner with the American Islamic Congress and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies to “provide leadership training, democracy education and coalition building assistance for 150 pro-democracy, Iraqi women leaders and political activists.”

-info from State Department 3/8, www.OneWorld.net 10/5, www.iwf.org

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