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National NOW Times >> Fall 2004 >> Article

Defeating Bush Tops Delegates' Agenda at National NOW Conference in Las Vegas

by Lisa Bennett, Communications Director and Jenny Thalheimer, Press Secretary

"It's time to send George W. Bush back to the ranch," said NOW President Kim Gandy, addressing attendees of the 2004 National NOW Conference in Las Vegas.

"We're also going to send his corporate cronies back to the private sector—unless, of course, their jobs have been outsourced, Gandy said.

Echoing the theme of this year's conference, "Don't Gamble with Women's Rights," Gandy traced the policies devastating to women the Bush administration implemented since 2001.

"We will not go back to a time when women were second-class citizens," Gandy said. "We've come too far. It is time to move forward and elect a president who will stand up for women."

Responding to Tumultuous Times

Hundreds of NOW delegates gathered July 16 to 18 to set the organization's agenda for the upcoming year. An overwhelming majority passed specific resolutions calling for emergency action surrounding the 2004 presidential election, including massive grassroots organizing and voter-registration efforts.

"We urged women everywhere to declare a 'State of Emergency' beginning immediately and work to re-defeat Bush in 2004," said Gandy, who is also chair of NOW's Political Action Committee. "John Kerry has a very strong record in his 20 years in the Senate, and I encourage every person who cares about women's rights to vote for him."

In order to prevent another voting debacle like the 2000 elections, NOW delegates passed a resolution demanding that unbiased, international observers monitor the 2004 elections.

Former presidential candidate Carol Moseley Braun won support for her non-partisan campaign, "Every Open Seat Should Be a Woman's Seat," designed to bring gender parity in political office.

"Since the new Iraqi constitution guarantees 25 percent representation to women, in the not too distant future Iraqi women will enjoy greater participation and policy-making than we American women do," Braun said.

Another resolution called for a halt to military actions in Iraq, and NOW members voted to conduct campaigns on same-sex marriage equality and affordable housing. As a continuation of NOW's four-decade campaign to stop violence against women, a resolution demanded that Congress reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act at a funding level of at least $10 billion over the next five years.

Delegates called for a Women of Color and Allies Summit to be held in the spring of 2005 and organized with a coalition of women-of- color organizations. Delegates charged the Summit with developing a strategic plan of action for fulfilling NOW's commitment to ending racism in all its forms. Looking even farther ahead, delegates voted to focus the 2006 National NOW Conference on issues of importance to young feminists.

Exciting Workshops and Speakers

In addition to NOW's Fifth Annual Political Institute, workshops covered a broad range of issues including women and AIDS, Promise Keepers, the war on drugs and sexual assault in athletics and the military. NOW members were also able to participate in discussions about reproductive rights, campus organizing, economic justice and equal marriage rights.

Throughout the weekend, speakers addressed many of the crises facing women this year. NOW/PAC (NOW Political Action Committee) guests included Rep. Hilda Solis, D-Calif., Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., first-time candidate Roselyn O'Connell (former National Women's Political Caucus president) and Nevada Democratic leader Adrianna Martinez.

Anti-war activist and CodePink founder Medea Benjamin spoke about the "forgotten war" in Afghanistan, the devastation of life for Iraqi women and what comes after the elections in the United States.

"We have to recognize that our work begins Nov. 2, once we get a Kerry administration in office, we have to work hard to get the U.S. troops home from Iraq, to stop the U.S. corporations from the takeover of Iraq, to give Iraq really back to the Iraqi people," Benjamin said.

The conference also focused on wage and gender issues facing women in the workplace. Stephanie Odle, lead plaintiff in the unprecedented class action suit against Wal-Mart, inspired hundreds of delegates to pour out of the conference hall to attend an action outside a local Las Vegas Wal-Mart. To protest the retail giant's discriminatory practices, participants carried signs that proclaimed "Wal-Mart is anti-woman" and marched through the store's parking lot, passing out informative flyers to customers.

Other speakers included Laura Flanders, progressive radio talk show host and author; Wendy Shanker, comedian and writer, who addressed women and body image in the media; and Susan Polis Shutz, poet and co-founder of Blue Mountain Arts. NOW honored Dr. Donna J. Nelson with a Woman of Courage Award for her groundbreaking research on the participation of women and people of color in the sciences. NOW's inaugural Woman of Action Award was presented to Stephanie Alves, who created a radio station to counteract the negative depiction of women in music and send a positive message to teenage girls.

Special President's Awards were presented to longtime NOW activist Geraldine Miller, who has advocated for household workers and women of color for more than 60 years, and to Alice Cohan, former NOW political director, who was the director of the 2004 March for Women's Lives.

"These are women who are living their principles every day," Gandy said. "They serve as role models for all feminists as we re-commit to the challenging task of protecting and advancing women's rights."

NOW will hold next year's National Conference in Nashville, Tenn., July 1 to 3. Stay tuned for more details on this exciting event.

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