It is hard to believe that
the national conventions are finally upon us — it seems like only
a decade ago that this presidential election began!
Once again I find myself in
the unexpected position of complimenting an evangelical leader, as I
did last November, when I expressed cautious
optimism for Bill Hybel’s statement
that the evangelical community was interested in the plight of women
in the developing world.
Setting aside any opinion I
may have about the candidates’ first joint appearance being
in a church, I thought Rick Warren produced an excellent forum for all
of us to learn more about the candidates for President. Not only were
his questions thoughtful and insightful, but he also made a valiant
attempt to encourage the candidates to answer fully and "off message."
And, perhaps most shockingly in this day and age, he filled the church
with polite supporters of both candidates. In other words, he didn’t
stack the deck.
Unfortunately, Warren did not
ask the candidates the question I’ve been waiting to hear: Would
you restore funding to UNFPA to assist in global efforts to promote
women and reduce poverty?
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Press freedoms are under attack now, more than ever.
To be fair, I don’t know
if Warren’s support for the world’s women extends to UNFPA or if
he knows about UNFPA — the global anchor institution
for women’s health and rights. However, he could have
asked, "Is less than 1% of the federal budget an adequate contribution
to safe motherhood
programs, HIV prevention and girls’ access
around the world?"
Neither Presidential candidate
has yet pledged to restore funding to UNFPA. We generated emails from
our supporters to both parties asking for support to UNFPA to be included in their platforms.
In a hopeful sign, the draft of the Democratic Platform includes the
language: We will…reinstate
funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). We will expand
access to health care and nutrition for women and reduce the burden
of maternal mortality.
The Republic Platform has not yet been released to the public. Stay
tuned . . .
In fact, it’s been a pretty
good summer for UNFPA. The House Subcommittee
on Foreign Affairs allocated a $60 million contribution to UNFPA, approaching the requested $63.5 million
which represents the $40 million allocation from the FY08 budget plus
10% of the money the Bush Administration has withheld from UNFPA.
And that brings us back to
the presidency. UNFPA is not on the radar screen of either candidate.
If the amount of grey matter used on an issue is directly related to
its cost to the taxpayers, UNFPA is never going to get a hearing. And
yet we know that no economically developed nation in the world excludes
the participation of half of its citizens. We know that women are the
key to almost all of the advancement of nations yet to be realized.
And we know for sure that promoting the health and rights of women is
important to Americans. If it’s important to a white, American-born
male, evangelical Christian (i.e., Rick Warren) and to South Asian,
naturalized American Muslim woman (i.e., me!) – who out there could
The candidates for President
should support UNFPA because when women are healthy, more economically
stable and more able to participate in society, society evolves to the
benefit of all of us. As the United Nations agency that promotes women’s
health and rights in more than 150 nations around the globe, UNFPA is
uniquely positioned to support the world’s women.
The men who spoke with Rick
Warren Saturday night most certainly gave the impression that they would
support the notion that all people are entitled to human rights.
Before you call me crazy, remember
that five years ago it would have seemed crazy that the head of an organization
dedicated to women’s rights and the head of an evangelical church
were supporting the same thing.
We’re taking out an ad in
Roll Call after the conventions to show the candidates that Americans
support global women’s health. Please sign the