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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following weeks of tumult and protests in North Africa and the Middle East, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire)is joining her 16 female Senate Colleagues in emphasizing the vital importance of women’s rights and political participation as leaders in North Africa and the Middle East consider constitutional reforms and shape new governments.  In a resolution to be introduced next week, the Senators are reaffirming their commitment to representative and responsive democratic governments that respect women’s rights and are calling on leaders in North Africa and the Middle East to include women when it comes to making decisions that will affect their lives.  In addition to Shaheen, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Patty Murray (D-Washington), Barbara Boxer (D-California), Kay Hagan (D-North Carolina), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Maria Cantwell (D-California), Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), Lisa Murkowski (R- Alaska), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) have joined resolution sponsor Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) as original cosponsors.

“Women have played a vital role in the changes sweeping North Africa and the Middle East, and they deserve to have a voice in any new governments that emerge there,” said Senator Shaheen.  “For countries that are establishing new government structures, including women is an opportunity not only to empower them, but to strengthen their entire societies as a whole.”

According to reports, while women have sacrificed and peacefully protested side by side with men in nations throughout North Africa and the Middle East, there are signs that women are increasingly being sidelined from the formation of new governments.  In Tunisia, according to press reports, only two women have been appointed to the transitional government and in Egypt, not a single woman has been appointed to the council in charge of revamping the constitution.  The Senators believe it is vital that women be included in making choices that will affect their lives.

“Part and parcel to the success and stability of any government is the equal voice and participation of women,” said Senator Snowe.  “The spirit and devotion exemplified by women in North Africa and the Middle East – and the ongoing challenges they continue to face – is both an inspiration to us all and a reminder that discrimination and gender-based violence endures around the world.  I honor their commitment to ensuring future generations enjoy the guaranteed equality and basic human rights for which they endeavor to this day and remain steadfast in my commitment to these universal liberties.”

“This resolution honors the brave and compassionate women in North Africa and the Middle East who are working to advance equality and basic human rights.  Their economic, civic, and political contributions are critical to advancing democracy and economic opportunity in each of the countries they live in,” said Senator Collins.

“In societies where women are equal, where they have the right to vote and to hold office, and where they are empowered to be leaders in their communities, those nations are so much more likely to thrive. Those are the societies that bring up the next generation with the right values, the solid education, and the economic vitality to succeed,” said Senator Hutchison.

“We have witnessed courageous women leaders throughout the Middle East and North Africa risking their lives to advance the cause of freedom, democracy and basic human rights.  As Secretary Clinton has rightly said, ‘The rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st Century.’ As we honor these inspiring women, I also urge all world leaders to continue the push for women’s progress,” said Senator Gillibrand.