Cultural Change on Women’s Behalf Requires Cultural Sensitivity, Maloney Says
WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 – Development programs to promote women’s rights
must work within cultures to bring about change rather than trying to
impose change from above," Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said today.
Speaking at the launch of the 2008 State of World Population report from UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, Maloney said the report “could not be more timely” because “it is all about cultural change--and we're really about to see a cultural change here in Washington!"
The UNFPA report, “Reaching Common Ground—Culture, Gender and Human Rights,” makes the point that “the culture of any country is not static and not monolithic,” Maloney said, but contains within itself contradictory currents and advocates for change in various directions, as Obama proved.
“The way to help women worldwide is to find the people and institutions in every society that are already working for women’s human rights and support them," Maloney said. “As the report says, ‘advances in gender equality have never come without cultural struggle.’ ”
Women are valued less than men in many places, and suffer from lack of health care, limited educational opportunity and face discrimination in law and custom," Maloney noted. “Women themselves may even be among those who defend these injustices,” she said. “That’s because they have not seen alternatives yet within their own cultures.”
Maloney predicted that the Obama administration would move quickly in January to create change for women worldwide by reversing several longstanding restrictions on U.S. international family planning assistance. “UNFPA will be funded and the gag rule will be reversed,” she said.
The Bush administration has for eight years withheld funds that Congress appropriated for UNFPA, which supports family planning and safe motherhood practices worldwide. The "gag rule," also known as the Mexico City policy, is a Reagan-era prohibition on funding for any group overseas that discusses abortion or advocates abortion policy changes.
Maloney pledged to make sure Congress fully considers the recommendations in the UNFPA report, which advocates incorporating cultural sensitivity into development policy and practices. She assured her audience that the Obama administration will also welcome the report. “He knows personally how critical it is to work within a culture to bring about change,” she said. “And he’s just done a beautiful job on that himself.”