Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Women and Development"

Women Leaders Under Attack

by Isobel Coleman
Shukria Barakzai campaigns for 2005 parliamentary elections in Kabul, August 22, 2005 (Courtesy Reuters/Zohra Bensemra). Shukria Barakzai campaigns for 2005 parliamentary elections in Kabul, August 22, 2005 (Courtesy Reuters/Zohra Bensemra).

In Afghanistan earlier this week, another female leader came under attack. Shukria Barakzai, an outspoken and high-profile member of Afghanistan’s parliament, narrowly escaped death when a suicide bomber rammed her armored car as she headed to work. At least three people were killed and many injured, but Barakzai escaped with only minor injuries. No stranger to death threats and assassination attempts, Barakzai has experienced several near misses during her many years as an activist and politician, and she readily accepts the personal risks she faces on a daily basis. Read more »

Beating Boko Haram

by Isobel Coleman
A woman takes part in a protest for the release of the abducted secondary school girls in Abuja, Nigeria, May 12, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde). A woman takes part in a protest for the release of the abducted secondary school girls in Abuja, Nigeria, May 12, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde).

Earlier today, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau offered to release more than 200 kidnapped school girls in exchange for prisoners. In the video, approximately one hundred girls are seen wearing hijabs and reciting verses from the Quran. Most of the girls are believed to be Christian, but Shekau explains they have been converted to Islam. Meanwhile, the international effort to rescue the girls is ramping up. The United States, the United Kingdom, China, France, and Israel are helping the Nigerian government strategize about how to find the girls and fight the radical Islamic group. Read more »

Women’s Rights under Attack in Iraq

by Isobel Coleman
An Iraqi woman walks back home to Basara, Iraq, as fires rage in the distance, April 2003 (Courtesy Reuters/Yannis Behrakis). An Iraqi woman walks back home to Basara, Iraq, as fires rage in the distance, April 2003 (Courtesy Reuters/Yannis Behrakis).

As the grim headlines from Iraq attest, the sectarian tensions that threatened to rip the country apart in the darkest days of 2006-2007 were never resolved. In the lead-up to the country’s parliamentary election on April 30th, suicide attacks and car bombings are again on the rise. Now, a proposed law threatens to worsen sectarian strife, and also make life harder for Iraqi women. Read more »

International Women’s Day 2014: MENA Women

by Isobel Coleman
Members of the Tunisian parliament celebrate after approving the country's new constitution in Tunis, Tunisia, January 26, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Zoubeir Souissi). Members of the Tunisian parliament celebrate after approving the country's new constitution in Tunis, Tunisia, January 26, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Zoubeir Souissi).

In honor of International Women’s Day, the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center asked a diverse group of experts from business, politics, media, and civil society to contribute to its third annual report on women’s status in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The publication, “MENA Women: Opportunities and Obstacles in 2014,” includes entries from forty-three women across twenty countries in the region and beyond, offering a broad and timely set of perspectives on the future of women in the Arab world. Although there are several areas of deep concern for women – particularly in Iraq and Syria – the views are generally cautiously optimistic and point to a positive trend line across the region. Read more »

Women’s Challenges, and Opportunities, in Yemen

by Isobel Coleman
A woman holds the national flag during a parade in Sanaa, Yemen, May 2011 (Courtesy Reuters/Ammar Awad). A woman holds the national flag during a parade in Sanaa, Yemen, May 2011 (Courtesy Reuters/Ammar Awad).

Earlier this month, I hosted Abdul Karim Ali Al-Eryani, former prime minister of Yemen, at a Council on Foreign Relations discussion. Al-Eryani recently concluded his role as a leader of Yemen’s ten-month-long National Dialogue Conference (NDC), a process that brought together rival political, tribal, religious, and social groups to craft a roadmap for the country’s political transition. Although Yemen is still struggling with escalating violence, secessionist threats, and a humanitarian crisis of poverty and malnourishment, the inclusive NDC was widely hailed for at least pulling the country back from the brink of civil war. Read more »

Is Kuwait Ready for a Female Judge?

by Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman
A policewoman guides a female voter at a polling center during the 2012 parliamentary elections in Jahra, Kuwait, February 2, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Stephanie McGehee). A policewoman guides a female voter at a polling center during the 2012 parliamentary elections in Jahra, Kuwait, February 2, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Stephanie McGehee).

This guest post is by Alessandra L. González, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Politics at Princeton University and author of Islamic Feminism in Kuwait: The Politics and Paradoxes. Here she discusses the likelihood of women becoming judges in Kuwait. Read more »

Quotas and Women in Egyptian Politics

by Isobel Coleman
Women search for their names outside a polling station in Cairo May 24, 2012. (Courtesy Reuters/Suhaib Salem). Women search for their names outside a polling station in Cairo, Egypt, May 24, 2012. (Courtesy Reuters/Suhaib Salem).

Earlier this week, Egypt’s Constituent Assembly, charged with amending the country’s constitution, announced that 25 percent of municipal seats will be reserved for women. There is no word yet on when municipal elections will be held, or if a similar quota will be established for parliament, but the move is a positive step toward improving the low political participation of women in the aftermath of Egypt’s revolution. Read more »

Combating Obstetric Fistula

by Isobel Coleman
An Ethiopian woman sits on her bed inside a clinic for obstetric fistula in Bahir Dar on March 10, 2007 (Eliana Aponte/Courtesy Reuters). An Ethiopian woman sits on her bed inside a clinic for obstetric fistula in Bahir Dar on March 10, 2007 (Eliana Aponte/Courtesy Reuters).

Today is the first International Day to End Obstetric Fistula. To be honest, I was not very familiar with the tragedy of fistula until about a decade ago, when I met the remarkable Dr. Catherine Hamlin, who has devoted her life to treating the problems of fistula in Ethiopia. More on her work below, but for those of you who don’t know what this terrible condition entails, I refer you to the UNFPA explanation: Read more »

Putting an End to Child Marriage

by Isobel Coleman
Child bride Krishna, 12, stands at a doorway into her compound in a village near Baran, located in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, India on July 30, 2011 (Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters). Child bride Krishna, 12, stands at a doorway into her compound in a village near Baran, located in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, India on July 30, 2011 (Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters).

Today, CFR published a new report, Ending Child Marriage: How Elevating the Status of Girls Advances U.S. Foreign Policy Objectives. The report looks at the scope and causes of this practice, what it means for U.S. foreign policy, and ways the U.S. might tackle child marriage through policy. Read more »