U.S. Department of State Policy Guidance: Promoting Gender Equality and Advancing the Status of Women and Girls

Fact Sheet
Office of Global Women's Issues
Washington, DC
July 3, 2014

“The U.S. government is the world’s strongest advocate for unlocking the power and potential for progress that women and girls represent around the world.” --Secretary of State John Kerry

Advancing the full participation of women and girls in the political, economic, and social realms of their countries is a key goal of U.S. foreign policy. When women and girls are empowered, educated, and equipped to contribute to their societies, their families and countries are more likely to prosper, and be more stable and secure.

Globally, women and girls are disproportionately affected by poverty and discrimination. Women often end up in insecure, low-wage jobs, and have limited access to the educational resources and financial tools they need to succeed. Women’s leadership and participation in politics, civil society, and the private sector is limited on local, national, and global levels. Gender-based violence remains pervasive in both developed and developing countries, in times of both peace and conflict. Women’s perspectives and participation, which are vital to achieving and sustaining peace, are too often overlooked in conflict resolution, prevention, and relief and recovery efforts. Adolescent girls in developing countries face particular challenges, including poorer educational outcomes; gender-based violence, traditional harmful practices such as early and forced marriage; and higher vulnerability to disease and infections, such as HIV.

Yet, there is ample evidence that supports, when governments and societies afford women and girls the opportunity to lead healthy, safe, and productive lives, greater economic growth and stronger societies emerge. This is why the United States believes gender equality is critical to global shared goals of prosperity, stability, and peace, and why investing in women and girls worldwide is critical to U.S. foreign policy. Under President Obama, Secretary Clinton and now Secretary Kerry’s leadership, the United States has brought an unprecedented focus to bear on promoting gender equality and advancing the status of women and girls around the world. The Department of State, under direction from the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (2010) and Policy Guidance on Promoting Gender Equality (2012), supports global progress towards gender equality through its diplomatic engagement, foreign assistance programming, and partnerships with civil societies and private sector actors across the globe.

Strengthening Our Efforts
Building on the Department's progress to promote gender equality and advance the status of women and girls globally, Secretary Kerry has directed all embassies and bureaus to continue to prioritize these issues in all of their diplomatic, development, and operations activities, including focusing efforts to:

  • Promote women’s economic and political participation – by addressing discrimination against women in economic and political spheres, fostering entrepreneurship and leadership, and removing barriers to meaningful engagement and opportunity;
  • Support U.S. strategic initiatives related to gender-based violence and women, peace, and security – by implementing the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally (2012) and the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (2011);
  • Empower adolescent girls – by addressing the specific challenges faced by girls, investing in girls’ ongoing education, and addressing harmful traditional practices, such as early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting;
  • Prioritize gender equality in international fora – by advocating for issues affecting women and girls, including a stand-alone goal on gender equality in the Post-2015 Development Agenda; and
  • Lead by example – by continuing to integrate a focus on gender equality in the Department’s strategic and budget planning, programming, monitoring and evaluation, and continuing to expand the structures, tools, and training necessary to support the Department’s employees in these efforts.