Tuesday, August 21, 2001 at 1:00am

Women have made significant political and economic strides in the last century but, as The Status of Women in Tennessee report reveals, there is much left to be done. Nationally, Tennessee is the third worst state for women, right behind Mississippi and Alabama. Tennessee received a grade of D- in political participation by women, ranking 46th in women's voter turnout and 43rd in women in elected offices. There are only five women out of 33 members of our state Senate, 16 women out of 99 in the state House and 11 women out of 45 on the Metro Nashville Council.

Worldwide, women make up more than half of the population but hold only 12.7 percent of all national parliamentary seats. The most disheartening statistic is that the United States ranks 45th in the world out of 178 countries classified by descending order of the percentage of women in the lower House. The U.S. House of Representatives is only 14 percent female. Countries that rank way ahead of the United States include Sweden (No. 1 at 42.7 percent female representation), South Africa (No. 10 with 29.8 percent), Cuba (No. 12 with 27.6 percent) and Costa Rica (No. 29 with 19.3 percent).

At the 1995 Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women, 189 governments agreed to the principle that no government can claim to be democratic until women are guaranteed the right to equal representation. Numbers do not guarantee that women will have full, equal, active and informed participation in economic, social and political decision-making. However, when women achieve a critical mass of at least 30 percent in policy-making bodies, women's issues are more likely to be prioritized and acted upon.

Even in this modern world, women are the principle caretakers of children and the elderly. The important contributions they make in raising the next generation goes largely unappreciated in terms of the governmental and private support they receive (child care, flextime options, etc.) or the money they are paid. All of this has a detrimental effect on children and society as a whole.

Women's Environment & Development Organization (WEDO) has launched a new global campaign called

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