The new US ambassador for global women's issues has assured the UN of the
Obama administration's "deep commitment" to a its blueprint for slowing the
population explosion and empowering women. However, Melanne Verveer highlighted
the importance of educating girls rather than "reproductive rights". The
theory is that educated women choose to have fewer children.

Ms Verveer said President Barack Obama's decision to contribute US$50 million
to the UN Population Fund for family planning, an increase of more than 100%
over the last US contribution, in 2001, "will send an unambiguous signal to the
world that the US supports the Cairo Platform for Action."

Verveer, who was chief of staff to Hillary Rodham Clinton when she was first
lady, was speaking at a birthday luncheon for 80-year-old Dr Nafis Sadik, the
former head of the UN Population Fund. Dr Sadik was secretary-general of the
Cairo conference back in 1994.

The new secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, recently told a Planned
Parenthood "that reproductive rights and the umbrella issue of women's rights
and empowerment is going to be a key to the foreign policy of this
administration." She stressed the link between women's rights and democracy.

Taking up this theme, Dr Sadik said: "I hope that the US diplomatic policy,
defense policy and development policy are all going to focus on the rights of
women and make that the underpinning for anything else that they may do in a
developing country," she said.

She also decried "the distortions of religion" that deny women their human
rights and "bigots" who fall back on cultural values to deny rights to girls and
women, especially on matters of reproductive and sexual health. (Hmmm. I wonder
whom she was talking about?)

In Sadik's honor, the United Nations Foundation, which sponsored the lunch,
announced that it
was establishing a fund
to help some of the more than 600 million adolescent
girls in the developing world.

Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet