Working for women's economic, political, and social equality includes, periodically, taking stock of our global progress. I had the opportunity on June 9 to discuss that progress with a bipartisan group of U.S. congressmen and congresswomen, when I testified on “Women as Agents of Change,” before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight.
The undeniable trend we see today in women's political participation is toward greater inclusion. Women are entering the field of government -- and rising to leadership positions -- in increasing numbers. However, this progress is not evenly spread around the globe, and the gains that still need to be made for parity to be achieved are still vast: at more than 50 percent of the planet's population, women hold less than 20 percent of the positions in the world's governments. Their voices are missing from global decision-making, and all of us are missing the benefit of their talents, perspectives, and experiences.
Changing this dynamic by investing in women is a central pillar of U.S. foreign policy. Women need leadership training programs to be effective candidates, whether at the local or national level, and -- through programs such as those of the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs -- we are providing that. Women need exposure to professional networks for mentoring and entrepreneurial training, and -- through programs such as those of the Middle East Partnership Initiative -- we are providing that. Women need the know-how of strong local NGOs, and -- through programs such as my office's recently-launched small grants initiatives, I'm very happy to say that we are on the way to providing that.
It is the women themselves who are doing the hardest work: getting an education despite threats and poverty; voting no matter how long a walk to the poll; and earning places in government no matter how deeply entrenched cultural attitudes are against them. All over the world, they are changing minds and making a difference. Our task is to support them and to encourage this pace of change and movement toward parity to accelerate: the scope of the challenges we face today means that we owe it to future generations to cultivate innovative solutions and democratic leadership everywhere around the world, among women and girls no less than men and boys.
Read Ambassador Verveer's Congressional testimony here.