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A R T I C L E S* &* S P E E C H E S

Contract with the Women of the U.S.A.

by Bella Abzug

The downsizing of women off the national political agenda is being challenged in a new and exciting campaign. The "Contract with Women of the USA" is gathering momentum across the country.

Even though we are a majority of the U.S. population, women are being attacked, trivialized and ignored in much of the current political debates. Modest gains that we have won in years of struggle are in jeopardy. The time has come to put women's needs and concerns up front, in actions as well as words.

Initiated by the Women's Environment and Development Organization, of which I am a co-founder, and the Center for Women Policy Studies, the Contract campaign is endorsed by growing numbers of women's organizations, women members of Congress, state legislators and others. Our target is a thousand endorsements by this fall. Even more important, the Contract provides a flexible organizing and advocacy vehicle for addressing state and local issues of importance to women.

Women state legislators are taking the lead in supporting the Contract and working with women and other public sector groups to develop their own state contracts. Kicking off the campaign on International Women's Day on March 7th were women legislators in Arizona, California, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota and New York.

Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" has run into stalemate and massive rejection by the American people. Our "Contract with Women of the USA" reflects the realities of American women's lives in all our family, economic, political, social, racial, age, religious and educational diversity. It offers an alternative and unifying vision in which women and men work together on an equal basis for our mutual benefit.

The 12 principles and action commitments in our Contract are based on the Platform for Action, approved by consensus last September at the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women by the United States and 188 other governments, as well as by 30,000 nongovernmental women, including 7,000 from our country.

The dozen commitments outlined in the "Contract with Women of the USA" call for economic, social and political equality for women; access to affordable health care and reproductive rights; an end to discrimination and violence against women; continuation of social safety nets for poor women and children; inclusion of women in peace-making; educational opportunities for women; and mechanisms to monitor and further women's gains.

Women legislators in the six kickoff states have signed on to the Contract. Similar actions are being planned in other states. We welcome the support of women legislators and activists throughout the country and urge them to join us in this important effort.

The Contract serves as a reminder to women of the potential power of our vote and also sends a message to all candidates: "Downsizing of women's concerns is a loser."

For information, contact:
Women's Environment and Development Organization
355 Lexington Avenue, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10017
tel: (212) 973-0325


Center for Women Policy Studies
2000 P Street
Washington, D.C. 20036
tel: (202) 872-1770.

This article is an exclusive excerpt from WOMANSWORD , a newsletter for activists, Vol. 1, May Issue.


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