Women. Peace. Security.

These three simple words have such profound implications for women, both around the world and right here at home. Women are disproportionately affected by rape culture, violence and threats, irrespective of whether it’s the young Indian woman gang-raped on a public bus; Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who nearly lost her life in an assassination attempt for standing up for the education of girls, or the 26 percent of American women who report they have been stalked online.

For centuries, women and girls have unduly borne the brunt of violence. It comes in many forms: rape, forced marriage, sexual slavery and harassment. Yet across all these years, when the powers that be come to sit at the decision-making table, women are almost always absent.

Think that happens just in the Middle East? Think back to the infamous 2012 photo of a congressional hearing on contraceptive access and use, in which all the men were comfortably seated at the table while the women sat behind them. Unheard.

Fourteen years ago, many wise women went to the United Nations to shed some light on this centuries-old status quo. What continues behind the scenes often goes unchallenged. By giving this a name and a mission, they set the world on the path for change. The mission became United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security.

This long name is a promise to bring women to the tables of power. It is a promise for an agency in realms where women have been at best relegated to the sidelines, and so often actively excluded. It is a promise for women to lead the way as major stakeholders in areas affected by conflict and in peacemaking.

Women are fighting for a role in the peace process in Afghanistan as this nation reaches a crucial moment. Malala’s courageous stand against the Taliban and work for girls’ education in Pakistan earned her the Nobel Peace Prize. Believe it or not, women hold the key to transforming Syria and Iraq’s harrowing ordeal at the hands of ISIS.

Women are standing up at this crucial moment in our time. Fourteen years ago, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 laid a foundation for a further-reaching vision for lasting peace and women’s essential role in building that peace as active agents for change. We go to Morocco to meet with women leaders from all over the world to contribute to that force for change.

Later this month, I will be traveling to Morocco with other women legislators from across the United States to meet with women parliamentarians from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. They serve in their version of the U.S. Congress. We will convene to learn from one another’s experiences, and to map out ways that we can strategically advocate for women’s voices to be at the tables of power.

When I return, I will begin work to bring women across Maine together to fight for the Equal Rights Amendment to be added to the Maine Constitution.

Maine has an interesting relationship with women’s equality. The Legislature ratified the federal ERA, which states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

When not enough states ratified the amendment to make it part of the U.S. Constitution, the Maine Legislature voted to send the amendment to Maine voters in 1984, hoping it would be added to the Maine Constitution, guaranteeing full equality for women and girls in our state. Sixty-three percent of Mainers voted against it.

Just over 20 years later, I believe it’s time to put the question to voters again. Let’s change the future for generations of women and girls by voting again on women’s full equality.

It’s time for women and girls everywhere to be treated as equals under the eyes of the law. Period.


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