SEATTLE, Washington — In March and May of 2021, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey introduced two simple resolutions to the Senate that are supporting women in developing countries: S.Res.95 and S.Res.240. The former seeks to address the impact of COVID-19 on women in developing countries. The latter aims to affirm the United States’ role in providing women in developing countries with access to quality education.
Both S.Res.95 and S.Res.240 are simple resolutions, meaning they are legislative measures that do not pass through the House or have the “force of law.” Rather, simple resolutions address issues within the Senate or offer foreign policy in related executive business recommendations. Since they are in the first stages of the legislative process, the appropriate Senate Committee must consider the resolutions before the sponsors send them to the Senate for passage.
How S. Res. 95 and S. Res. 240 Will Impact Women in Developing Countries
A few key provisions of S.Res.95 would reinforce measures that supply health services ranging from improving sexual and reproductive health to preventing gender-based violence. This initiative includes the protection of funding for related COVID-19 response activities, such as those within the U.N.’s COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan.
Additionally, the S.Res.95 emphasizes the need for short-term programming centered around relief and prioritizes long-term economic strategies that focus on the influence of COVID-19 on women in developing countries who belong to marginalized, displaced, migrant and lower-income communities. Lastly, S.Res.95 advocates for the provision of vaccines, medical necessities, healthcare and related aid by the U.S. to combat the effects of COVID-19 on women in developing countries.
S.Res.240 focuses on the broader goal of increasing girls’ education by including provisions to promote economic prosperity, global stability and poverty eradication in developing countries by providing marginalized children, particularly girls, with inclusive public education. The resolution also mobilizes the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development to align with the Global Partnership for Education and raise $250 million to promote girls’ education. S.Res.240 supports the Global Partnership for Education in enrolling 88 million more children in school by 2025, with more than half of them being girls.
Why are These Resolutions Necessary?
The resolutions introduced by Senator Cory Booker reflect the need to assist women in developing countries, particularly those suffering from the consequences of COVID-19 and a lack of access to education. Such effects include the following:
- A spike in gender-based violence: Due to a rise in poverty resulting from the pandemic, reports of gender-based violence increased in approximately 27 countries and sexual exploitation rose in about 20 countries. As COVID-19 forces women to self-isolate with abusive partners, domestic violence continues to increase as well.
- Adverse health: Because women, including those in developing countries, make up 70% of the health sector, they are more likely to work on the frontlines as midwives, nurses and community health workers. Decreased funding for sexual and reproductive health further threatens women’s health. Such employment puts women at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Additionally, fewer sexual and reproductive health provisions leave them more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases and suffer maternal mortality.
- Human rights violations: The progression of COVID-19 continues to result in the disruption of humanitarian efforts. The United Nations reports an increase in harassment and attacks against women (including online) and an adverse effect on women’s freedom of speech.
- Gender-related barriers: A lack of gender parity remains an issue in developing countries where boys are favored to attend school. Globally, 129 million girls do not attend school. Furthermore, only 49% of countries have gender parity at the primary education level. This number decreases for each successive level of education.
These resolutions aim to target each of the issues mentioned above. Senator Cory Booker is not alone in supporting women in developing countries. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Tina Smith (D-MN) have co-sponsored S.Res.95. Additionally, fellow senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) co-sponsored the consideration of S.Res.240 to the Foreign Relations Committee. The work of these members of Congress indicates bipartisan efforts to eradicate COVID-19 and poverty along with the challenges it poses to women and girls across the globe.
– Riya Sharma