Iraq War veteran Duckworth first senator to give birth while in office

US Sen. Tammy Duckworth speaks with reporters as she arrives for the weekly Senate Democrat's policy luncheon, on Capitol Hill, December 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Updated 19 February 2018
0

Iraq War veteran Duckworth first senator to give birth while in office

WASHINGTON: Breaking down barriers is nothing new for Sen. Tammy Duckworth, and that’s the way she likes it.
The decorated Iraq War veteran who lost both legs when her helicopter was shot down is an Asian-American woman in the mostly white, mostly male and very fusty Senate. And now, with a baby due in April, she’ll be the first senator to give birth while in office.
And so, along with her legislative and political goals, the Illinois Democrat is adding a new one: educating the tradition-bound Senate on creating a workplace that makes room for new moms.
“She’s been through things that you and I will probably never understand. So I’m sure for her (having a baby) is in no way daunting,” said Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington, who had two children while serving in Congress. “She’s also someone who’s had a whole career in a male-dominated world.”
Duckworth, who turns 50 in March, says she appreciates the historic nature of her baby’s birth, as well as the fact that she represents working mothers and women having babies later in life. She fully expects to have to find a place to nurse in some quiet parlor off the Senate floor.
But she says having a baby, a second daughter, is just one of many stops on the trail ahead.
“This is the last job that I want,” Duckworth said of the Illinois Senate seat once held by Barack Obama. The former president is one of several men she ticks off as mentors and role models. They include Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, and the late Democratic Sens. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and Edward Kennedy — all backers of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which made the nation’s landscape a little easier to navigate.
But she’s sees both problems with compliance and efforts to undermine the law.
She points to flaws in Chicago’s mass transit system, for example, and in a ladies’ room at a US embassy overseas. And floating through Congress now is a bill designed to curb frivolous lawsuits under the ADA that Duckworth and others say weakens it.
Duckworth is already in the history books. She’s the first female amputee elected to Congress, the first Asian-American to represent Illinois in Washington and the first member of Congress born in Thailand. Her story of resilience and grit set her in the rare company of grievously injured veterans who later served in the Senate — Dole, a World War II veteran, and John McCain, who was kept prisoner for more than five years in Vietnam.
“If you take gender out of it, it’s not that new,” said Duckworth, a year into her own Senate term.
But gender can’t be ignored as the nation reckons with sexual misconduct at home and in the workplace, especially since Congress is not exactly known for being on the leading edge of equality. The first area specifically set up for lactation opened in the Capitol only a dozen years ago. The House installed its first lavatory for women lawmakers in 2011. The Senate has had its own women’s restroom for 25 years.
Duckworth, one of 22 women in the Senate, has the experience to give her policy advice and criticisms of President Donald Trump an especially authoritative edge.
His demand for a military parade? “Our troops in danger overseas don’t need a show of bravado, they need steady leadership,” she said.
His complaint that Democrats didn’t sufficiently applaud his State of the Union address?
“I will not be lectured about what our military needs by a five-deferment draft dodger,” reads the Tweet pinned atop her page, referring to Trump’s deferment from Vietnam due to a foot ailment. She refuses to “mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap.”
CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” gave Duckworth full credit for the nickname. In a gag ad earlier this month, a new G.I. Joe doll resembling Trump, named “Cadet Bonespurs,” lolls in a hammock while his comrades march off to war.
When Trump tweets that Democrats don’t care about the military, “she takes that personally. She answered personally,” said Durbin.
Politics and the military were not Duckworth’s original goals.
As she worked on a master’s degree in international affairs in the early 1990s at George Washington University, Duckworth was aiming to become an ambassador. She signed up for ROTC to learn more about the military. She fell in love with the challenge — and with a cadet named Bryan Bowlsbey. They married in 1993. Duckworth has said she applied to fly helicopters because she wanted the same opportunity as men — and because it was one of the few combat jobs open to women.
She was the senior officer co-piloting a Black Hawk on Nov. 12, 2004, when a grenade fired by an Iraqi insurgent exploded in a fireball at Duckworth’s feet. She lost both legs and partial use of her arm and faced a grueling recovery.
As she recovered, Duckworth befriended some important members of the Senate. Durbin invited Duckworth to be his guest at President George W. Bush’s 2005 State of the Union address. And Dole, who had lost much of the use of one arm to war, dedicated his 2005 book to her. Duckworth, he wrote, “represents all those with their own battles ahead of them.”
But for all of her powerful patrons, achievements and drive, the Senate terrain can still seem bumpy.
One day in December as Duckworth wheeled around a corner in the Capitol toward the Senate’s historic vote on tax cuts, a young police officer stopped her. The elevators, he said, were reserved “for members only.”
Duckworth looked up and, all business, informed him that she’s the junior senator from Illinois.
The officer let Duckworth through — with apologies.


Recent appointments in Egypt show rise of women to high political office in Mideast

The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Updated 21 June 2018
0

Recent appointments in Egypt show rise of women to high political office in Mideast

  • Recent appointments in Egypt are the latest example of the rise of women to high political office in the region
  • “The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position”

CAIRO, LONDON: The appointment of two more female ministers this month to the new Egyptian Cabinet means women now fill eight out of 34 positions, the highest number in the modern history of Egypt.

Hala Zayed is the new health minister while Yasmine Fouad takes over as environment minister. Both women replaced men and join culture minister Inas Abdel-Dayem, tourism minister Rania Al-Mashat, Nabila Makram (immigration minister) Ghada Wali (social solidarity minister), Hala El-Saeed (planning minister) and Sahar Nasr (minister of investment and international cooperation).
The appointments by Egypt’s new Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly have been welcomed as forward thinking by social and political commentators.
Dr. Magda Bagnied, a writer and professor of communication, told Arab News: “I believe whoever planned for those eight effective ministries was looking forward for the future of Egypt since they are all interconnected in some way, and having females leading them is a leap forward.
“A country’s rank and status is measured by the role of women. The higher the number of leadership roles for women, the further the country is considered to be on the road to development.”
Four out of 15 new deputy ministers are also women and women now hold 15 percent of the seats in Parliament.
The rise of women to high political office in the Arab world is by no means restricted to Egypt.
Jordan also has a record number of women ministers after Prime Minister-designate Omar Razzaz appointed seven women to the 29-member Cabinet sworn in last week.
“The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position.”
The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Twenty-three members of the new Jordanian Cabinet have been ministers before and 13 were members of the outgoing government that was brought down by popular protest.
Rawan Joyoussi, whose posters became one of the defining images of the protests, said: “I was hoping that women would be empowered and I am happy with that. But as far as the composition of the rest of the government is concerned, I think we have to play our part to create the mechanisms that will hold the government accountable.”
In the UAE, women hold nine out of 31 ministerial positions, and one of them, Minister for Youth Shamma Al-Mazrui, is also the world’s youngest minister, appointed in 2016 when she was only 22.
This makes the UAE Cabinet nearly 30 percent female, which is higher than India, almost equal to the UK and far ahead of the US, where Donald Trump has just four women in his Cabinet.
The general election in Morocco in October 2016 produced 81 women members of Parliament, accounting for 21 percent of the total 395 seats. The Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), which won the most votes, also ended up with the highest number of women MPs, 18.
Though elections in Saudi Arabia were open to women only in 2015, it ranks 100th out of 193rd in the world league table of women in national governing bodies, slightly above the US at 102nd place.
A policy briefing from the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington says that one of the best ways for a country to ease economic pressure and boost productivity is to increase female participation in the workplace and in political life.
“Introducing diversity through gender parity will benefit economic growth and can help Arab countries to generate prosperity as well as the normative and social imperative of change,” wrote analyst Bessma Momani.
Yet in some parts of the Middle East, female representation seems to be going backward.
In 2009, four of Kuwait’s 65 MPs were women. In 2012 there were three and in 2013 only one. In 2016, 15 women stood for election to the 50 open parliamentary seats (the other 15 are appointed). Only one, Safa Al-Hashem, who was already an MP, was successful.
Qatar has no women MPs or ministers at all.
Egypt’s appointment of two more women ministers does not have the appearance of tokenism. The new Health Minister, Hala Zayed, 51, has a solid background in the field as a former president of the Academy of Health Sciences, a hospital specializing in cancer treatment for children.
She was also government adviser on health, chairwoman of a committee for combating corruption at the ministry she now heads and also has a Ph.d. in project management.
Similarly, Yasmeen Fouad, 43, the new environment minister, has four years’ experience as a former assistant minister in the same department, where she was known as “the lady for difficult missions,” and liaised with the UN. She is also an assistant professor of economics and political science at Cairo University.
Egypt’s first female minister was Hikmat Abu Zaid, appointed minister of social affairs in 1962 by President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who dubbed her “the merciful heart of revolution.”
Now there are eight like her, demonstrating that in the Middle East, “girl power” is on the rise.