In a video message, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer underscored the central role women's empowerment and equality play in U.S. foreign policy. Ambassador Verveer said:"Investing in women is one of the most powerful forces for international development and for advancing the causes of peace and security, democracy and prosperity around the world; and, yet, it’s a force that is still significantly untapped. Equality for girls and women isn’t only the right thing to do -- it’s also the smart thing -- for no country can get ahead if half its citizens are left behind. We still have a long way to go before women have equal economic participation, or equal political representation, or access to education and health care, or are free from violence and have the chance to follow their dreams.
In 1995, when Secretary Hillary Clinton was First Lady, she gave an historic speech at a United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing, China. She talked about how human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights. It’s that simple: a matter of equal human dignity, respect and opportunity. In that speech, she said that girls and women comprise the majority of the world’s poor, unfed and unschooled; and that is still the case, sadly. She talked about how women in many places are subjected to rape as a tool of war, to domestic abuse, and child marriages; how they are bought and sold like commodities in human trafficking; and how girl babies are cast aside just because they are born girls; and, tragically, these and other violent practices are still happening every second somewhere around the globe, and these problems are still urgent.
But despite the enormous challenges, we are making progress. We are making progress because women -- and so many good men who support them -- from Afghanistan and Jordan to South Africa, from Poland and Turkey to Argentina, and all the countries in between, women are struggling to change our world for the better. More world leaders are ready to listen and take measures to improve the status of girls and women.
We know what works. We know that when a girl goes to school, she improves the life of her family and community. She is given a brighter future. When a poor female entrepreneur gets access to credit, her business and her family flourish. When a mother receives health care, she and her family can prosper.
Women’s empowerment and equality are central to our foreign policy, because we cannot tackle the great challenges of our time -- whether dealing with the environment, security, the global economy, or human rights -- without the participation of women at all levels of our society.
I hope you will raise your voice and join our efforts. I invite you to explore our website and to learn more about what the State Department is doing; and please sign up to find out about how you can advance the progress of girls and women everywhere. And in so doing, together we can create a better world for all of us."