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A Feminist Foreign Policy: Questions for Candidates

Today and tomorrow, we’ll have the chance to hear from candidates at the first presidential primary debate.

This week’s debate comes at a crucial moment. The Trump administration is leading us to the brink of war with Iran; attacking the rights of women, girls, and LGBTIQ people; detaining migrant children in unlivable conditions; and denying climate change, with devastating consequences for women and families worldwide.

More than ever, we need policymakers willing to challenge the assumptions that have long defined US foreign policy: that war is a natural, default response to conflict, that the US must compete to put “America first” on the global stage, that profits need to be maximized at any cost, and that the US must pursue global supremacy through military might and economic coercion.

What we need now is a feminist foreign policy, one that can trigger a paradigm shift rooted in principles of peace, human rights and justice. Feminist thinking offers a way forward. It orients us towards cooperation instead of domination; balance and sustainability instead of perpetual exploitative growth; and grassroots-driven rather than top-down strategies. It drives us towards holistic approaches to build a just world for women and communities.

As the candidates face off, here are four sets of questions we would ask the presidential candidates - a glimpse at what a debate guided by feminist principles could look like.


Historically, the US has been the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Now, the effects of climate chaos — like worsening droughts, flooding, and cyclones — are being felt most acutely by women and girls in the Global South. Their communities are the most impacted, yet often have the fewest resources to cope with climate disruption. The Trump administration’s gutting of environmental regulations and withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has only exacerbated this crisis. All the while, women climate defenders worldwide are mobilizing urgently to protect their communities from the worst impacts of climate disaster and raising their voices to demand just climate policy, locally and globally.

Do you support a transition from fossil fuels to a 100% renewable economy? How would your policy agenda support grassroots women climate defenders? What are your proposals to ensure a just transition to a green economy? Given the US’s role in worsening climate change, how would you address the US’s debt to communities facing its most devastating impacts worldwide?


Increasingly, women and girls are fleeing war, gender-based violence, and the effects of climate change. Refugees who arrive at the US border are being denied their right to seek asylum, separated from their children, and forced into indefinite detention. Children endure horrific mistreatment at overcrowded border facilities.

What is your plan to overhaul US refugee and migration policy, welcome more refugees — including survivors of gender-based violence — and ensure that their human rights are protected? How do you propose to address the conditions that force people to flee?


The US is currently fighting wars in at least seven countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Somalia, in the name of the so-called “war on terror.” Not just that, the US sends arms and military support to the Saudi-led coalition, which continues to bomb Yemen, pushing it to the brink of famine. Instead of ending wars, the Trump administration is escalating violence against Venezuela and Iran, and seeking to expand the already massive military budget.

How will you propose to end US wars and help communities rebuild? How would you address the US-fueled humanitarian crisis in Yemen?

Women’s and LGBTIQ Rights

We’ve seen intensified assaults on women’s sexual and reproductive rights and LGBTIQ rights, from attacks on abortion rights throughout the US and the Global Gag Rule to rollbacks of trans people’s health care and the erasure of LGBTIQ people in policy strategies. The US has emboldened right-wing regimes globally, like Bolsonaro in Brazil, who has advanced a dangerous anti-women and anti-LGBTIQ agenda, and Duterte in the Philippines, who has called for sexual violence against women who oppose him.

How will you defend sexual and reproductive rights and the rights of LGBTIQ people in the US and globally? What is your plan to stem the rising tide of right-wing authoritarian regimes and their attacks on rights globally?

We need your help to speak out about what a more feminist debate would look like. Here's how you can share on your social media:

  • Ask the candidates: Do you support a transition from fossil fuels to a 100% renewable economy? @MADRESpeaks #PresidentialDebate #AMoreFeministDebate [Click to Tweet
  • Ask the candidates: What is your plan to welcome more refugees and ensure that their rights are protected? @MADRESpeaks #PresidentialDebate #AMoreFeministDebate [Click to Tweet
  • Ask the candidates: How will you propose to end US wars and help communities rebuild? @MADRESpeaks #PresidentialDebate #AMoreFeministDebate [Click to Tweet
  • Ask the candidates: How will you defend sexual and reproductive rights and the rights of LGBTIQ people? @MADRESpeaks #PresidentialDebate #AMoreFeministDebate [Click to Tweet

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June 26, 2019