Women's Voice and Leadership Crucial for Change: Open Letter to President-Elect Obama

On December 5, 2008, a few
days before the 60th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, a group of global and domestic women's organizations gathered
in New York to frame a shared agenda for advancing global women's
rights. Determined to use their collective strength and expertise to
work together to advance a global agenda for women's freedom, safety
and agency, they crafted the following open letter to President-elect
Obama and committed to working together to see their vision come true
in this century.

Dear President-Elect Obama,

As a group of women leaders who have given our lives to the
transformation, protection and empowerment of women in the United
States and globally, we want to begin by congratulating you. We are
honored and proud to have you lead the nation during this historic
time. We also welcome your call to action, reminding us of what we have
always known -- that as global citizens we cannot solely rely on any
one administration's ability to bring about change, but must be
steadfast in pushing forward our own vision and agendas.

We represent a historic movement for change: millions of women
across the globe with innovative ideas, influential constituencies and
collaborative solutions. We are calling on you to ensure that women are
equally represented in everything, from your administration's
infrastructure to its decision-making and solution building. We are
calling on you to exercise leadership in dismantling the structures
that perpetuate gender inequality, impede women's full participation in
society and thwart real progress for people around the world.

As war rages in Gaza, it is clear that the time has come to
dismantle militarism as the dominant ideology in world politics. We
must ensure that women take the lead in building lasting peace in the
Middle East, ending genocide in Darfur, stopping femicide in the
Democratic Republic of Congo, fighting the War on Terror in
Afghanistan, and ending the war in Iraq.

Though the select-few women who hold leadership positions in this
country's political system inspire us; women represent more than 50% of
the population and deserve more than marginal representation. We
believe that in order for your vision of change to succeed, women must
be in positions of power. While US women gained the right to vote 100
years ago, to date only 14% of the US Congress are women. This must

The major economic, security, governance and environmental
challenges of our times cannot be solved without the equal
participation of women at all levels of society -- from the home to
institutions of national and global governance. Women's voices must be
central in all major discussions including the economic crisis,
overhauling our education system. Long-term investments in women's
education, health and leadership development are equally critical.
Economic structures continue to marginalize women. Consider this: women
represent two-thirds of the world's labor yet we own less than 1% of
the world's assets.

In addition, more than 500,000 women die each year because of
inadequate medical and reproductive care. Violence against women is a
pandemic that determines women's realities, impeding their access to
education and economic self-sufficiency. This global epidemic is
undermining the future of the world, as women are at the heart of all
communities and families; we literally carry the future in our bodies.

Yet these are not "women's issues." In fact, such investments are
vital to economic growth and the well-being of all individuals,
communities, societies and nations. Consider India's economic
transformation of the past 15 years: The World Bank finds that states
with the highest percentage of women in the labor force grew the
fastest and had the largest reductions in poverty.

As policy makers, activists, researchers, and grant-makers we have
spent our lives investing in women and know that these kinds of
investments have immeasurable and fundamental impact for the better.
Worldwide, women are uniquely positioned to bring innovative insights
and creative solutions to global leadership forums. If we hope to
improve existing economic, peace and security, and human development
frameworks women must not only be included, but must be at the heart of
the discussion.

We are calling on you to be the President who ushers in the time of
women. Our vision of the future is one in which women and men are equal
partners, standing shoulder to shoulder in confronting the world's
challenges. We welcome, with hope and anticipation, your shared
commitment to this vision.

We represent more than half of the world's human potential. And our time has come.


Linda Basch, PhD
President, National Council for Research on Women

Mallika Dutt
Executive Director, Breakthrough: Building Human Rights Culture

Eve Ensler
Founder, V-Day

Adrienne Germain
President, International Women's Health Coalition

Sara Gould
CEO, Ms. Foundation

Christine Grumm
CEO, Women's Funding Network

Geeta Rao Gupta
President, International Center for Research on Women

Carolyn Makinson
Executive Director, Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children

Kavita Ramdas
CEO, Global Fund for Women

Zainab Salbi
President, Women for Women International

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