51 % The Women's Perspective
4:56 am
Fri November 30, 2007

Women leading abroad

Albany, NY – Women are taking the reins in increasing numbers around the globe. Just look at the female president of Chile, and the recently-elected female president of next-door Argentina. While the rising number of female heads of state is now catching global attention, some have made a career of studying women's leadership trends.

We looked up Judith Saidel to give us context on women's political leadership in the U.S. and abroad. Saidel heads up the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society at the State University of New York in Albany. And, as expected, she shed some light on the role women play in governments worldwide. She started by filling me in on some information from the International Institute for Democracy and Assistance, and from the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

As Judith Saidel pointed out, new governments provide opportunities for women to change their roles. Iraq is no exception. Yanar Mohammed is an Iraqi-born architect who's doing just that. Mohammed immigrated to Canada with her husband and son in 1993. She lived a comfortable emigre existence there for a decade. But a few months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003 she was drawn back to her native country by reports of worsening conditions for women. Once back in Baghdad, Mohammed and a small group of women founded the Organization of Iraqi Women's Freedom, or OWFI. The group has pushed hard for the creation of a democratic, secular Iraq with full equality for women. One of the group's major campaigns has been against honor killings.

51%'s Melinda Tuhus interviewed Mohammed in her hotel room in New Haven, Connecticut, where she gave a major address in October at Yale University. Mohammed began by explaining the evolution of honor killings in Iraq.

South America has not been known for women's rights in the past - especially on issues of abortion, the largely Catholic countries often lag behind. But that seems to be changing. Argentina is bringing more women to its top ranks. One is the newly-elected president, Cristina Fern ndez de Kirchner. She takes office in December, succeeding her husband. Kirchner's election is considered a victory for women in Argentina.

But another woman has been in a high spot in the Argentine government. Carmen Argibay's was the first woman on Argentina's Supreme Court, and her achievements loom large in human and women's rights. Argibay signed-on to the ruling that stripped Argentine officials of their immunity from prosecution for human rights violations. Her work in gender equality and humnan rights led her receiving the 2007 Gruber award with two other Latin Americans. She spoke about women's groups and her career with 51%'s Laura Iiyama in Washington, DC.