Advancing the Status of Women and Girls Around the World
No country can get ahead if it leaves half of its people behind. This is why the United States believes gender equality is critical to our shared goals of prosperity, stability, and peace, and why investing in women and girls worldwide is critical to U.S. foreign policy. —Secretary of State John Kerry
Global stability, peace, and prosperity depend on protecting and advancing the rights of women and girls around the world. Research shows that progress in women’s employment, health, and education can lead to greater economic growth and stronger societies. Evidence demonstrates that integrating women’s perspectives into peace negotiations and security efforts helps prevent conflict and can lead to more durable peace agreements. When women and men are equally empowered as political and social actors, governments are more representative and effective.
The Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI) ensures that the rights of women and girls are fully integrated into the formulation and conduct of United States foreign policy. Working with the White House, USAID, the Department of Defense, and other agencies, as well as with civil society and the private sector, the Department of State has launched multiple and wide-ranging global initiatives to promote women’s social and economic development, integrate women into peace and security building, address and prevent gender-based violence, and ensure women’s full participation in civic and political life.
Integrating the Advancement of Women and Girls into U.S. Foreign Policy: The Obama Administration has made advancing the status of women and girls a central element of U.S. foreign policy, as articulated in the 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review and the Department of State’s Policy Guidance on Promoting Gender Equality to Achieve Our National Security and Foreign Policy Objectives. Further, on January 30, 2013, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum on gender equality, ensuring that an Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues will continue to play a leading role in U.S. efforts to advance women’s rights around the world.
Accelerating Women’s Economic Participation: To spur economic growth by strengthening women’s entrepreneurship and creating opportunities for women to participate fully in the global economy, the Department of State has launched or partnered in initiatives like Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women and the Economy Initiative; African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program; Invest for the Future (Southern, Eastern Europe and Central Asia); Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Americas; Central Asia and Afghanistan Women’s Economic Symposium; South Asia Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium; Pathways to Prosperity; Propelling Women Entrepreneurs in Pakistan; the Secretary’s International Council on Women’s Business Leadership; and initiatives like mWomen, TechWomen, and TechGirls to empower women and girls through the use of technology. Finally, the U.S. continues to advance the Equal Futures Partnership, launched in response to President Obama’s challenge to break down barriers to women’s economic and political participation.
Fully Integrating Women in Peace and Security Building: In 2011, the U.S. developed its first National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace, and Security, a blueprint for U.S. engagement that reflects a broad, interagency commitment to ensure that women participate more fully in preventing and resolving conflicts, and that women and children are protected from harm and abuse and have equal access to relief and recovery assistance in areas of conflict and insecurity. The Department of State is taking concrete steps through diplomatic and programmatic efforts to empower women to participate in national and community-level dialogues in countries such as Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Burma, and in transitioning Arab Spring nations, to engage politically and contribute to reform of the security sector.
Preventing and Responding to Gender-Based Violence: Addressing gender-based violence is a cornerstone of the Administration’s commitment to advancing gender equality. Gender-based violence significantly hinders the ability of individuals to participate fully in and contribute to their families and communities – economically, politically, and socially. In August 2012, the U.S. released the first U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally, accompanied by a Presidential Executive Order directing its implementation. The strategy sets out concrete objectives and actions to marshal U.S. expertise and capacity to address and prevent gender-based violence, and represents a multi-sector and whole of government approach. As part of this strategy, beginning in 2013, the Department of State’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices will strengthen reporting on female genital mutilation/cutting, child marriage, and gender-biased sex selection.
Promoting Women’s Political Participation and Leadership: Through efforts such as the Community of Democracies, and bilateral and multilateral outreach, the U.S. works to ensure that women’s voices are heard in emerging democracies everywhere, from Afghanistan to Kosovo to Mongolia to Iraq, Libya, and Tunisia. In December 2011, S/GWI helped launch the Women in Public Service Project, a partnership to identify, mentor, and train emerging women leaders around the world. The Department of State has also sponsored regional gender dialogues in the Lower Mekong, the Pacific Islands, Eastern Europe, and with members of civil society.
Ensuring Women and Girls are at the Center of Development: The Department of State and USAID work together to develop programs that focus on advancing the status of women and girls to improve development outcomes through efforts such as the Global Health Initiative; Feed the Future global hunger and food security initiative; girls’ education programs; the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Central to President Obama’s global health agenda, for instance, is the advancement of gender equality, including through promoting maternal and child health, nutrition, HIV/AIDS prevention and response programs, sexual and reproductive health, reproductive rights, and access to voluntary family planning.
Empowering Local Partners: Working with donations from private sector partners and government funds, since 2009 S/GWI has awarded $70 million in targeted grants to local organizations to improve the lives of women and girls in 85 countries around the world.
Building the Evidence Base: S/GWI leads efforts to build the evidence base for the benefits of promoting gender equality and improving the status of women and girls. Such efforts include the Evidence and Data for Gender Equality (EDGE) Initiative, launched at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness at Busan, to improve the availability and use of statistics that capture gender gaps in economic activity; and Data2X, a collaboration among the Hewlett Foundation, UN Foundation, USAID and the Department of State to improve the collection and use of gender data. The Department of State also supports efforts under the Feed the Future initiative, such the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), developed by USAID and partners to measure the empowerment, agency and inclusion of women in agriculture.