International Women's Day Message

Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Washington, DC
March 8, 2011

WRITTEN QUESTION: Today being International Women’s Day, what women have influenced your life?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I have a wife and three daughters so they are certainly very important parts of my life, but I would say the most influential person is probably my boss right now, Secretary Clinton, who’s really one of the great women leaders of the world and has been a real champion of women’s rights and women’s’ development.

She’s very clearly said that the 21st Century really needs to be the century in which the world focuses on the rights of women and developing those. Because I think we have all

come around to the notion that there’s probably no single thing that we can do to help improve development than to help improve the rights and the development of women. Because it has such a positive ripple effect. Let me just give you a few examples.

If you educate a young girl it is more likely that she will, first of all, spend more time in school, but that she will also then get a job. And once she gets a job she’s more likely to spend the money that she earns on her family by buying books, by buying mosquito nets in malaria areas, by doing much more. Whereas the comparative notion for men is that only about 30 to 40 percent of their income will go to the family.

It has so many benefits, not only for the family itself, but for the society. We’re very committed to this. We’re very excited that President Otunbayeva of Kyrgyzstan is going to be one of the recipients this year of the Women of Courage Award, and will be here for that ceremony. We’re excited that we’re going to be hosting a conference in Kyrgyzstan later for all of the women of Central Asia, probably in the summer, to have a conference on women’s empowerment, and to bring together women from Central Asia and from Afghanistan to share their experiences, to share best practices, and develop a game plan and an action plan about how to further encourage women’s empowerment in Central Asia.

We’re really excited about this opportunity and really think that women can make a real difference to the future security and prosperity of this region.