WASHINGTON – Sen. Olympia Snowe will be the lead advocate next week for a Senate resolution stressing the need for ensuring women’s rights as new governments are formed in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia.

In addition to Snowe, R-Maine, all 16 other female U.S. senators have signed on to the resolution, including Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, according to Snowe’s office.

The resolution will be formally introduced next week when lawmakers return from a one-week recess, and presumably will be approved by the full Senate with little controversy.

The resolution states that its goal is to honor “the women in North Africa and the Middle East who have worked to ensure that women are guaranteed equality and basic human rights,” and to emphasize 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.”

The senators say that women, who demonstrated for governmental reform along with men in these countries, are in danger of being relegated to the sidelines when new governments are put into place.

“Part and parcel to the success and stability of any government is the equal voice and participation of women,” Snowe said in a statement. “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.”

“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,” Collins said. “Their economic, civic, and political contributions are critical to advancing democracy and economic opportunity in each of the countries they live in.”

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire said “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.”

A draft resolution was shared with officials at the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, which offered some “helpful suggestions which were included in the final version,” according to Snowe’s office.

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at:

jriskind@mainetoday.com