For Immediate Release

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Diana Duarte, Media Coordinator
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Obama Addresses U.N. - MADRE Responds

WASHINGTON - An Open Letter

Dear President Obama:

As you bring to a
close your first address to the United Nations General Assembly, we
know that the time for women’s human rights advocates to amplify our
voices is now.  Your active participation in this key international
discussion has set the stage for future US engagement with the world. 
If the Administration’s efforts to have a positive impact are to be
fruitful, the United States must recognize and promote women’s human
rights in every policy that it pursues.  

On the “preservation of our planet”:
correctly identified climate change as a key issue of our time.  Yet,
missing from your comments were concrete solutions and the recognition
that rural women hold key solutions to climate change.  Women are the
traditional managers of rural communities’ food, water and other
environmental resources. Women farmers in Nicaragua who have led the
way in sustainable, organic agriculture; women in Kenya who have
brought wells for clean water to their communities; women in Panama who
have preserved biodiversity by protecting seed banks—these are the
on-the-ground experts to whom we should be turning for models of
sustainable resource management.

On the creation of a “global economy that advances opportunity for all people”:
global economic recession has been accompanied by a marked retreat from
the development and poverty-reduction commitments of wealthy
countries.  Yet, it is in precisely such times that women’s health,
education and empowerment must be a central priority in all US policies.

healthy global economy will not result from the same US-led policies
that have produced mass poverty, environmental ruin, and most recently,
a worldwide recession. We call on you to promote policies that uphold
women’s economic and social rights. Women constitute 70 percent of the
world’s poor. They are also the economic backbone of the world’s most
vulnerable communities: women are the majority of small-holder farmers
and the main providers of healthcare, childcare and primary education.
As such, women are central to eradicating poverty and pursuing a
sustainable global economy.  

On “the pursuit of peace”:
Afghanistan, abuses of women’s human rights are rampant, but they
cannot be eliminated at gunpoint. In fact, the US military presence
undermines prospects for Afghan women to secure rights for themselves.
As US troops levels have increased, so too has the power of the Taliban
as more Afghans turn to them for protection from the US and its corrupt
and predatory allies in the Karzai government.  We call on you to shift
US resources from making war to supporting Afghan-led development and
human rights initiatives.

Your promise to pursue “a just and
lasting peace between Israel, Palestine and the Arab world” included a
welcome recognition that families pay the steepest price for armed
conflict.  That is why peace negotiations must uphold the full range of
human rights for all people in the region.  The success of any future
settlement hinges on its compliance with human rights standards and
international laws that guarantee peace and security for all people in
the region, call for the creation of an economically viable Palestinian
state, and protect of the rights of Palestinian refugees. 


concluded your address by reminding the world that “democracy and human
rights are essential” to achieving the goals that you outlined before
the General Assembly.  We join with our sister organizations from
across the world to give you this message: women’s human rights are
central to any sustainable solutions to the crises that we confront
today. The success of your policies rests on your commitment to
upholding and advancing the full range of women’s human rights.


Vivian Stromberg
MADRE Executive Director


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MADRE is an international women's human rights organization that works in partnership with community-based women's organizations worldwide to address issues of health and reproductive rights, economic development, education, and other human rights. MADRE provides resources, training, and support to enable our sister organizations to meet concrete needs in their communities while working to shift the balance of power to promote long-term development and social justice. Since we began in 1983, MADRE has delivered nearly 25 million dollars worth of support to community-based women's organizations in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Balkans, and the United States. For more information about MADRE, visit our website at

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