The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Speaker opines on democracy

Alicia Smith | Thursday, October 16, 2008

What women contribute to society is incredibly important, Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky said during her lecture, “Empowering Women in Democracies Around the World” at Saint Mary’s Wednesday.

Margolies-Mezvinsky chairs Women’s Campaign International, a group that provides political training to women around the world. In 1992, she became the first woman elected to Congress from Pennsylvania and three years later led the United States delegation to the United Nations’ Fourth International Women’s Conference in Beijing.

Since that time she has represented U.S. delegations to Austria, India, Spain, Kazakhstan and Turkey.

“What Women’s Campaign International has tried to do is figure out how, without turning a lot of people off, we integrate what we know about the importance of women and leadership into members of parliaments all over the world,” Margolies-Mezvinsky said.

Women’s Campaign International is an organization that works on training women in democracies.

“We only go into emerging democracies. We often go into failed states. We always go into countries where we are invited in,” Margolies-Mezvinsky said.

Five years ago, Women’s Campaign International went into Malawi. There they were able to double the number of women in the caucus, and have been working with them ever since.

“We work very closely with the people who are there,” Margolies-Mezvinsky said. “We do an assessment. We go in and figure out what’s needed. We just do a lot of listening. We set up in a week’s time maybe 50 meetings.”

But Women’s Campaign International does not only work with women in political positions. The Campaign also does charitable work by testing women for HIV and helping support certain international hospitals. They also work to change laws that are unfair to women.

The Campaign wanted to increase testing for HIV in Malawi, so they tested the Congressional Women’s Caucus.

“The country is at least 14.5 percent HIV positive,” Margolies-Mezvinsky said. Since that time, Malawi has quadrupled the amount of testing for HIV through the Women’s Caucus.

“That’s what can be done. That’s what we do,” she said. “Why I think it’s so important, and basically talk to you about reaching out to women around the world because, we’ve found at Women’s Campaign International that what women have to say is incredibly important.”

Margolies-Mezvinsky was the Democratic candidate for the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania in 1998.

She is the author of four books and currently she is a fellow at the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania, her alma mater.